The Ruler Who Plays by Different Rules
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Rules. Ruler. Ruling. A noun and a verb. As we explore the gospel reading appointed in this lectionary cycle for Christ the King Sunday, we encounter Jesus before Pilate. Or is it Pilate before Jesus? Pilate wants to play by the rules. Pilate is a ruler. The Jewish leaders are asking Pilate to make a ruling- to put Jesus to death. Jesus is playing by different rules. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. The language of king, kingdom, power, prestige- these terms that hold such a sway and tap into our human desires are not the ways and rules by which Jesus has shown up in this world. Jesus turns upside down what kingdom means.
Rules. A few definitions from the Merriam- Webster dictionary: as a noun-a prescribed guide for conduct or action, as a transitive verb- to exert control, direction, or influence on. We are living in a time where many of the rules- prescribed guides for conduct or action- have been cast aside. This past year I have heard it many times, -“so and so”…the government, schools, stores, other people, the CDC, the police, …. can’t tell me what to do. There is a sense that in every instance we get to pick and choose which rules we to follow.
Years ago as a refrain in her Christ the King sermon, the preacher shared the expression, “you aren’t the boss of me”. That voice of each of our inner toddlers who wants to call all the shots. Our human predicament is seen in the paradox of both wanting there to be order, purpose and meaning in our lives and world and an inner drive and desire to pick and choose when we follow the rules. Pilate wanted to wash his hands of this mess with Jesus. The Jewish leaders wanted to turn over the decisions about Jesus to the Roman authorities. "What rules are we playing by?", Pilate asks in his own way -in an attempt to get Jesus to indict himself.
The Golden Rule -a rule of ethical conduct found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31: to do unto others as you would have them do unto you -was shared by Jesus as a way to follow. The Golden Rule was added to the Great Commandment- to love God with everything- body, mind, spirit, strength. In the crises of our time- the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment don't seem to hold much sway much less be a guiding principle.
To be able to protect oneself and ones' possessions has become a justification for “my rights/my freedom” at the cost of another’s life. When rules are meant for others and my “freedom” to “have it my way” is more valuable than love for my neighbor- trouble is at every turn. The Great Commandment and The Golden Rule as standards for how to show up as followers of Jesus don't seem to be the rules many are playing by these days. So as we focus on Jesus as King let this speak into our current context. Now is a time to allow the One who Rules with Love undeserved, to be our guide of conduct, our example for action, and the ruler we look to as our Sovereign.
Ruler. Two definitions: one that rules specifically : SOVEREIGN, the other definition - a smooth-edged strip (as of wood or metal) that is usually marked off in units (such as inches) and is used as a straightedge or for measuring. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor - a ruler who served under the Emperor Tiberius and ruled over Judea during the time of Jesus. Pilate ruled with cruelty and oppression. Jesus came to rule with love, forgiveness and compassion. Jesus ruled with forgiveness, compassion and love.
This week reflecting on the gospel passage instead of a ruler as one who rules --I kept getting an image in my mind like the photo at the top of this post. I kept seeing a wooden ruler. Pulling out the ruler that I use at home I wondered how it would be if I unbeknownst to me I had a ruler that wasn’t accurate? Jesus set up as a king in worldly terms isn’t accurate. The exchange between Pilate and Jesus has two words that stuck with me. They kept coming back to me and I looked them up in Greek. They aren’t fancy or complicated words. They are short and simple words. For. This. They make it clear that Jesus as King is something quite different than the ones who want to rule with fear and force, seeking their own power and wealth. Two simple words.
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. John 18:37
Purpose. For this. Jesus born for this and came into the world for this- to testify to the truth. Jesus as Ruler, as Sovereign, as Son of God, as Son of Man, as Way, Truth and Life- was born for this, came into the world for this. And this “for this” this testimony to the truth is that Jesus was born and came into the world for you and for me and for Pilate and Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus dead. And to this One- to this Truth- we are invited to listen. Listen to the rule of the Golden Rule to love others as you would be loved and the Great Commandment to love God freely with all that you. Listen and belong to a Ruler who is not of this world. Listen to the One who is alive and at work in this world through the power of the Spirit.
Ruling. Here is the verdict, here is the ruling- you are loved not because of what you do but because of who God is. God is love and you were born for this. God created you in God's own image. God breathed you and every living thing into being. The "for this" truth that Jesus was born and came into the world to reveal is the Love of God for you and for me and for everyone of us. Let this in. Let this is such that it serves as the foundation of your own "for this". God's purpose for you - the reason you were born, the reason you came into this world is to let your light shine. And God has given us the both the gift of our lives and the freedom to live them as we wish. Freewill.
The Spirit of Truth and Love is here for us to rule our hearts and minds and be our Guide. This Ruler, our Sovereign will not rule with fear or violence, intimidation or deceit. Ruling with grace, love and compassion you are invited to let your light shine. And in the upside down way of this Ruler- as we live as those who belong to this One - we put down swords- we don't need weapons to feel powerful, to prove we are strong or to fight off others. We turn upside down the ways of the kingdoms of this world and stop building castles of fear.
Surrender living in the illusion that love is limited. Let go of the scarcity mind frame that you are only as valuable as what possessions you own or work you can provide. No more moats, walls, ditches, or dungeons- this King and this kingdom are playing by different rules.
Let this Truth “be the boss of you”. When I kept thinking about rulers- who rule and rulers- that measure. I thought of the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent. How do you measure a life? It tells of valuing each minute, each moment. The treasures of the Kingdom of God aren't measured in gold, real estate, bank accounts, accolades, or accomplishments. The treasure of this Kingdom is love and it is here now- in this moment, in this breath.
This Truth rules with Love and that is a different rule. Let it surprise you and guide you. Let this One rule your heart and mind, guide your actions, inform the ways you show up in the world and determine the rules by which you live out your life. Live you life out in love.
There are 525,600 minutes in a year. In each minute and in each moment the Truth who is clear in his purpose- to love - is with you. Your Sovereign is inviting you to listen to his voice and the intended purpose for you to live out your love. For this you were born. For this you came into the world-so let in this Love and let this One be the boss of you so that you can seek guidance to be set free to live out the love you have been given. To live purposely and with clarity that God's love is the Truth and that love is in you- that sets you free.
It’s the real freedom into which we are called to place our free will. The freedom to surrender our freewill and let it be God's will is trusting that when we place our will into God’s tender loving care our "for this" purpose and direction will keep getting clearer. The paradox is in the surrender that allows for the greatest freedom. Jesus turns upside down the meaning of kingdoms in this world and invites us to live now in the kingdom that is to come. Tastes of it, glimpses of it and moments of this kingdom are here now. In this moment and in this breath God's love is the air you breath, the life force within you. Here now.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. We not only pray it, we get to live it. Playing by different rules.