Vol. 11 No. 6 June 2009
Along with preaching at Highland Home and my adjunct teaching at Faulkner, I also work part-time for the Alabama Sports Festival. Among other things, we put on the Alabama State Games each year, an Olympic-Style sporting event with over 20 different kinds of sports, and athletes from beginners to experts, from ages 4 to 84. One of the unique features of our State Games is the Olympic-like Opening Ceremonies. After an athlete registers to take part in the Games, we send them a response that includes a free tee-shirt ticket. On the ticket, it tells them that they can pick up their Opening Ceremony tee shirt between 12:00 pm and 6:15 pm on the day of the Opening Ceremonies. It clearly states when and where to pick it up, and that the shirt is an Opening Ceremonies tee shirt.
We have all kinds of people who come up after the opening ceremonies, or to the temporary command center we set up, or call us wanting to redeem their coupons for their free tee shirt. We tell them that they are $5.00 after the opening ceremonies. They will often argue until they are “blue in the face” that they should get them free. They will say, as one lady told my wife, “That is just not fair. Why shouldn’t my kids get one just because they could not come to the Opening Ceremonies?” The Executive Director looked at me the other day and said, “Don’t people read the instructions anymore?” Sadly, I had to answer that way too often they don’t.
I tell you all of this as a means of introducing some ideas that these things bring to my mind: (1) There is a specific time and place on the ticket for these shirts are to be picked up. It states clearly that the free tee shirts are for the Opening Ceremonies. So many feel that, somehow, they are the exception to those rules. Similarly, the Scriptures are very specific about how we come into a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Yet, through the centuries, mankind has invented its own rules and ideas, and ignored what God has commanded. Man refuses to read the instructions.
(2) The ticket does not have to say that you cannot get a free shirt anytime but the specified time. It says the specific times and place. I have to disagree with the lady who said, “It is not fair.” The fact is that it is absolutely fair. Some argue that the ticket does not say that you cannot get it free after that specific time (though we may change that next year so that it does). It should not, and actually does not have to say that. The Scriptures, again, do not have to list all that we “cannot” do, or all that is unauthorized in order for us to know the facts. It simply tells us what is authorized, and inherently excludes all else. One just needs to take the time to read the rules.
(3) The coach’s ticket specifically states that coaches cannot pick up tee shirts for their teams, but that only individuals can pick them up themselves with their tickets. Not only, then, do people ignore the limit of the times given, but also they act in direct conflict with what is written, and expect that to be acceptable. It is not surprising, based on this observation, to see why human beings truly believe that they can act in direct conflict with the Word of God and still please Him. It is because they choose to ignore the instructions, whether they have read them or not.
(4) The Sports Festival has the right to set these rules for the free tee shirts. They have the right and obligation to enforce those rules. They are not simply arbitrary rules with no purpose. The free tee shirts are meant as an incentive/reward for those who attend the Opening Ceremonies. That is why they are no longer free after the Opening Ceremonies, because those folks who come to get them did not attend the Opening Ceremonies. It should be easy to draw the same conclusions about God’s Word. He has the right to set up the “rules” for those who would receive eternal reward in Him through His Son Jesus Christ. He also has the right, and obligation to enforce His will. Further, it is clear, His law is not arbitrary, but it is designed to put those who obey Him into a covenant relationship with Him, and to help them walk in His ways. You must read, listen to and obey His instructions. That is totally reasonable.