Rules, the Sabbath and Planning Permission
Tell the story about the cottage in Parwich whose owners wanted to extend it so that they had more room for their two little children. They were told that there were rules saying that no extension could be greater than a certain size - any extension should not be larger than 25 per cent of the original size of the house.
They were told that they couldn't extend the cottage any more because the previous owners had already done so. The owners had turned the coal shed into a room, and put a new room on top of it.
The present owners said that they just wanted to add a couple of rooms at the back of the house, to give more living area and a new bedroom. These rooms would be barely visible from the road - in fact they would look out over a steep rock face, and not interfere with anyone's view.
They appealed. After three years they were finally given the go-ahead to build the new rooms.
Now of course there are reasons for having rules such as the 25 per cent rule on new extensions. But they need to be flexible. They should take account of people's genuine needs. Rules such as this can make it very difficult for young families to live in an area where house prices are high - and then when the young families have to live somewhere else, this affects the school, the shop, the church, and so on.
Talk about Matthew 12. 1-14: Jesus breaking the laws of the Sabbath:
- with his disciples, eating ears of corn
- healing a man with a shrivelled hand
The religious laws of Jesus' time had become so oppressive that they had become, for some, an end in themselves. They had become a burden so heavy to bear that many had no way of keeping them all. They had the effect of keeping many people who were deemed 'unclean' out of the temple - and thus made them feel rejected by God.
Jesus, however, reminded the people that the point of the ancient Jewish religious laws was to help people to love God and their neighbours. Indeed the whole Law could be summed up in that way.
We need laws; but if they are not applied with compassion, kindness and flexibility, then they become things which oppress rather than instruments which build a better society and which help people to flourish.
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