Jesus must be shaking his head in disbelief to think that his immense personal sacrifice—God coming to Earth to live as his creation lives, and being crucified for it—has been reduced to yet more Pharisaic rules that the rabbis heap upon their followers.

These self-appointed legislators leave no stone unturned in looking for areas of your life to assert the spiritual superiority of their own opinions. Thus they fabricate rules for marital sex, attire, recreation, wine, travel, the Lord’s supper, and a whole host of other topics found in what I call 2 Opinions Chapter 3—the go-to source of authority when you can’t find it in the Bible.

This article delves into the mindset of those who feel qualified to make these rules for other people based on anecdotes and faulty reasoning with a profound absence of scripture reference. Below is a transcript and audio of a May Meeting deliberation on rules for travel, with a generous portion of the context in order to avoid accusation of twisting words.

I ask the reader: Did Jesus die for this? Did he nail one legal code to the cross and simultaneously bind his followers to another one, erected on a foundation of rubbish like what is in this transcript? Yet this is what passes as a “May Meeting” to “keep unity?” Does the following conversation have anything to do with the Spirit, or is it merely the works of the flesh as measured by outward appearances?

The transcript would be funny if it wasn’t so scary. It is akin to the early church fathers in centuries gone by arguing about how many angels can stand on a needle’s point. We can all laugh at that. But this? Is there anyone who thinks this conversation represents the “weightier matters of the law?”

And where’s the outrage that the message of the gospel–the Good News–has been lost completely by this focus on rules and regulations?

Paul wrote the Galatian church specifically about things like this. They had been taught the grace of God, but were trying to bring legalism back from the dead. Paul said in Galatians 1:6-7 – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all.” Translation: You’re turning back to “law-keeping” as your measure of righteousness, which is really not “good news” at all. It is enslavement.

So judge for yourself. Is the following “good news,” or is it enslavement to the consciences of the rabbis; just more teaching for doctrines the commandments of men?

Transcript of audio (18:13) 

<Speaker 1>: I was on the boat until <Speaker 2> got up and then I think I jumped off. <Speaker 2>, okay, you don’t have a class on Thursday. 

<Speaker 2>: Correct. 

<Speaker 1>: Okay, so is that not free time? Is that not his private time? So you were saying that if I go to Spring Valley on Friday; that’s my private time. I can go to Sea World, wherever, and there’s no issue. How is  <Speaker 2>’s time different if he goes to a 50th anniversary? Can’t he still decide not to go to that class? They don’t have a class on Thursday, I don’t want to confuse it, but they don’t have a class on Thursday; they do whatever they’re going to do on Thursday. I am trying to discern between when is it not considered free time. I thought he said they don’t have anything on Thursday. So he decides he’s going to go to Minnesota for a 50th Anniversary. So what’s the difference there? Somebody just kind of help me out here. That’s all. 

<Speaker 8>: I thought the way we reasoned that one was if <Speaker 2> was going to stay over on a Sunday; if he was going to stay over on a Sunday he’d meet their schedule because we are saying now we are going to meet their schedule. That’s how we reasoned it at least when we were talking about it; that if he was going to fly up on a Thursday and he was going to go to a 50th anniversary; they didn’t say he had to keep that Thursday night if he was going to fly back by Saturday because he’s not saying he’s keeping anything of theirs. They won’t even know he’s in town. But if it was you’re going to keep their schedule on Sunday because he had to come back on Monday we were saying you’re going there; you’re going to try to meet the schedule now. If you’re going to do it Sunday otherwise we start picking and choosing where we go. I think that is some of what’s happening also too is going around trying to figure out who didn’t have something on that night. 

<Speaker 3>: That would be the difference of saying ‘my free time.’ I don’t know how many of us have free time but you know what I mean. We have Wednesday night class so there is the exception when sometimes somebody might have a mid-week class on Wednesday night; they already had it on Tuesday night. 

<Speaker 4>: I think Loretta hit on the key point to this was if you violate your schedule where you’re coming from then you are going to keep your schedule where you’re going to be at. But if I am not violating my schedule it’s my time. I went up to Erie to preach one Sunday and the next week… (I kept their schedule while I was there), but the next week I went up and bought a trailer from my dad but I zipped up there and I was in range of Erie but I didn’t miss anything at home; and I zipped back. I don’t know what night it was; I probably went up there on a Thursday because we don’t have anything on a Thursday so I had a Thursday and a Friday free. Zip up, Zip back; I didn’t miss a thing in my home congregation. I don’t know if Erie had a meeting or anything on that day; I didn’t even bother about asking. I didn’t have time to get with the brethren in Erie. They didn’t even know I was there and I didn’t miss anything at home. That’s the key point is if I violate my home schedule and I am going to be away for this significant reason then I am going to keep the schedule of Church where I am at that point in time. 

<Speaker 5>: I’ve never heard that. What does Sunday have to do with it? I go to Stanton to see my mom, okay. We have a Ladies Class on Tuesday. I am coming home Saturday. Do I go to your Friday’s Ladies Class? I thought I had to… 

<Person in the background>: Yes 

<Speaker 5>: Okay, so where does Sunday come in? So I don’t have to keep the schedule if I’m not staying over on Sunday. See that’s what I am asking <Speaker 8>; I don’t understand what that has to do with it. 

<Speaker 9>: Do you have a Friday class in your congregation? 

<Speaker 5>: No, we had a Tuesday ladies class. 

<Speaker 9>: So you’re not missing anything in your congregation. 

<Speaker 5>: No, but I can’t imagine not having to go to their class. 

<Speaker 6>: The problem is… Basically we’re saying you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be in another congregation and try to keep your schedule from the congregation that you left. I am no in this congregation. For example, <Speaker 2> is now in Minnesota let’s say during his free time. We all know we have free time. I think it’s getting really muddied and hard to get it clear because I know we don’t have anything on Monday; what I do on Monday doesn’t matter if I make a quick trip to Greenville and back. I mean what I do on Monday, as long as I’m back to my congregation it’s fine. If I am in their congregation I now follow their schedule, period. But what I do on my days in my own congregation where I don’t have a Bible class or personal work; what I do on those days are my business, period, regardless of geographics. But when you come to my congregation… 

<Speaker 9>: Even though I’ve gone to my ladies class. 

<Speaker 6>: Yes, but now you’re visiting us; you’re there in our congregation and you’re with us… yes, you keep our schedule. 

<Speaker 9>: I’m on my free time and I don’t have anything on Friday. 

<Speaker 6>: You have midweek class… What day are you coming? 

<Speaker 5>: I don’t mean to get confusing… I’ve done our ladies class Tuesday…Okay, I fly in Wednesday… I can see going to your Thursday class. 

<Speaker 6>: Right, you’d be there for Thursday class and you’d be there for Friday ladies class. Yes, you’d keep the whole schedule. 

<Speaker 5>: So what does Sunday have to do with this? 

<Speaker 6>: He was just using that as an example for when <Speaker 2> was asking about going to another place; and if you’re there over past your spare time then you’d have to be keeping Minnesota’s schedule. I’m just looking at – you can’t have it both ways where now that I’m in Minnesota I’m going to keep my Columbus schedule and since we don’t have a Thursday class there and they have a Thursday class now in Minnesota I won’t keep that even though I am there for the week. Time factors in – how long I am in a place in going to factor into what I do. 

<Speaker 5>: So if I normally have a Thursday night class and I go to, let’s say, Washington to see my son and they don’t have a Thursday night class – I have not forsaken mine. 

<Speaker 6>: Right, and that happens. 

<Speaker 5>: But Friday morning class I would go. 

<Speaker 6>: Yes. Right. 

<Moderator>: Are we all understanding what’s being said? Any questions? 

<Speaker 7>: I can’t answer their question (the people at the table). I can’t answer it so… They are feeling if you kept the schedule in your own congregation and you go over there… Let’s use the example for me like if I go to visit my mom in Portland. I have had this happen. I finish our schedule up in Greenville and I leave out Friday morning… no that won’t work.. Let’s say I am in Dominic’s congregation and they meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s say I’m from Sacramento and let’s say I am going to Portland to see my mom and so I’ve already finished all my works and responsibilities in the congregation I left and I’m going over there and I’m going to fly back Monday because I can’t really leave my congregation very long. So, they end up having a Thursday night non-member class and a first-Friday meeting and my whole purpose was going to out there to see my mom but I will be in class the whole time and not be able to do it. 

<Speaker 9>: You went to check on your mom and you’re going to be with your mom. Your mom might need you. 

<Speaker 7>: Does that answer it? Okay. 

<Speaker 10>: If we just stick with the reason that we’re going our conscience should be able to kick in there of what we should be doing. If you’re going to be there to see your mom; you’ve already kept your obligation; you’re not in any violation; you’ve already kept your midweek, your Christian living class, your purpose is to see your mom. You purposed to take care of everything so you could see your mom so see your mom. 

<Speaker 7>: Good. I might not have been able to see her. Good. 

<Speaker 10>: This is why you get counsel. 

<Moderator>: Okay. Any other questions? 

<Speaker 11>: This is not a question. I just want to make this comment. As we are doing all of this and we’re talking and so forth, it can give the appearance that this is an elaborate set of rules under certain circumstances that we have adopted. I don’t like that feeling at all. I want to make sure that we all process this that what we’re batting around here are judgments that have real reasons behind them. If I felt that these reasons were so that we could all compromise something I just couldn’t do that but to me I understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and we have to understand that too. There are reasons, there are judgments and if we don’t quite understand it yet still try to go ahead and get those from others otherwise you’re going to feel like this is something that has just been concocted and so forth. I just felt like I wanted to make that little statement there. 

<Speaker 4>: I think this brings up an important point on significant reason because if my mom is sick and she needs me, maybe in my own congregation; maybe she lives close to where I am at. If I’ve got to take her to the hospital; if I’ve got to do something that would be causing me not to make my class, midweek or my personal work or something like that; that is a significant reason…”why is <Speaker 4> not at class tonight?” … “well he isn’t at class tonight because he had to run his mom to the hospital. That’s a significant reason. So if I’m traveling for a significant reason to another congregation and if I’m there because that significant reason is that important then okay. It kind of gives you a way to judge even the significance of the traveling. 

<Speaker 9>: Even if you had to miss Sunday because she needed you. 

<Speaker 4>: Right. My wife; she goes up and there was a time where she missed one Sunday where she had to take care of her mom and all of that where she could not make it back. Well, it was understood. She didn’t forsake anything but it was a significant reason that she was up there. She didn’t just go to have a visit with Mom. So if I am in Portland because my mom needs me to be there and because of that need I’m not attending their class then there is a significance and would rise to the same level as being in my congregation. So nothing has changed. It’s just as important and I think it gives us a way to say ‘this is significant.’ If you were in your home congregation would you be keeping that schedule? So it helps to judge that. 

<Speaker 6>: I was going to say that if anything, we always error on the side of caution; even when we begin our travels because rather than develop this mind of ‘I finished my schedule, now I want to do this and I want to do that.’ I know we can go find the loophole and find a way around things and kind of try to manipulate things to where we do what we want to do and I know that shouldn’t be our mind set anyway. To me, we’re usually having the mindset of ‘we really want to be really careful with this.’ Maybe I want to go at a certain time and if I leave on Thursday morning I will miss my Thursday night class; could I leave on a Friday morning instead. Even just trying; maybe I am going from my congregation that has a Thursday night class every week to a congregation that doesn’t have one but yet the reason I’m going isn’t a situation that I have to leave immediately Thursday morning. It’s not like it’s urgent so I can do a red-eye or do Friday morning. I think if we operate with that kind of mind we’re always going to be careful instead of trying to find ins and outs of ‘well I’ve finished my schedule, now I can go over hear and go over there.’ This doesn’t really change anything for a lot of us as far as days that we normally are not doing anything we still are going to operate as normal but when we do travels sometimes yes we’ll do double schedules. I have gone to Arizona when Nathan lived out in Arizona and we were just visiting Nathan but they had another class going on and we went to the class. If anything we are going to error on the side of caution and be careful that we just don’t introduce that it doesn’t matter because it would be kind of strange if brethren knew I’m sitting right there with all the Arizona brethren and I just decided I’d stay home that night because I really wasn’t there for that reason or I was there on my free day but yet I’m with all the brethren. It wouldn’t make any sense. So, again, I think that’s why counsel is so important and just carefulness because some of us go through painstaking efforts to make sure that when we are going from point-A to point-B we can try to make sure that we do not…we can get in everything possible. I know some of you have your personal work on Monday morning and so we may try to even when we’re going to leave out on our travels to make sure we’re not going to leave on a day and I’m going to try to get there so I can get in the same kind of schedule I have if at all possible. 

<Moderator>: Anything else on this? Okay with that do we want to move on to the next issue or do we need to address anything else with traveling? Okay. 

It’s worth pointing out that <Speaker 11> is clearly struggling with the notion that they are about to make a complex set of rules. He says “…it can give the appearance that this is an elaborate set of rules under certain circumstances that we have adopted. I don’t like that feeling at all.” Friend, I want to suggest that that was your conscience speaking. We are great at rationalizing away our consciences as humans, aren’t we?

Freed from the law

Now contrast the carnal mindset that produced the above deliberation about rules governing travel, with the spiritual mindset of those who have true freedom in Christ—not just from sin, but from the “weak and miserable forces” that seek to enslave us:

Galatians 3:23-4:9 – Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 

4:1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 

4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 

7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

I long for the day when teachers, preachers, and evangelists in this audio, one by one, come to lay down their burdensome rules at the cross and walk away much more free to serve and reach a lost world that desperately needs to hear about the gospel—the good news—of Jesus.