Spirit, not rules

Mar 2, 2015 by

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“Structural Change Not the Answer” (Feb. 16) says the Mennonite Church USA Membership Guidelines “include a rule that prohibits pastors from officiating same-sex covenant ceremonies.” When do “rules” guide our faith journey? When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees cited a rule that it was a sacred day not to be sullied by work. This sect of Jews seemed to need rules to guide their religious lives while ignoring the suffering of real people. When I see the word “rules” associated with membership guidelines, I think of impersonal religion. When rules steamroll people, the illustration of pharisaical religion seems appropriate. Compassion, as Jesus taught and demonstrated it, means to walk beside another in love and acceptance, not judgment and condemnation. Anabaptist values of love and compassion trump rules. A one-size-fits-all mentality is archaic. Rules tend to be impersonal, exclusive and judgmental. If a congregation can’t decide appropriate ministry responses, then they miss the spirit of the ecclesia reflected in the New Testament. My church tries to respond to people who need our love and care regardless of socio­economic status, ethnic or racial identity, gender identity or sexual orientation. We believe that what we do is the Jesus model. And we let the Spirit guide us, not a set of rules.

John P. Esau
Topeka, Kan.

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