For what the law was powerless to do ... God did by sending his own Son ... in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4 TNIV).

When you hear of someone being "above the law" or "above the rules," what comes to mind? Perhaps the person who cut in front of you in traffic; she must think she owns the road. Maybe the white-collar crooks who poked holes in your retirement; they knew the rules about insider trading and honest bookkeeping but simply decided to violate them. Yes, there are people who break laws and breach the canons of ethics. They don't care who gets hurt. They're only looking out for themselves.

But there is another way of being "above the rules." One can function at a level higher than the rules demand. Maybe we'd say "above and beyond" or "going beyond the call of duty." The person who borrows your car to run a quick errand fills a near-empty gas tank before bringing it back. A stranger stops to help when you are stranded beside the highway. You put a quarter in a parking meter for the car next to yours because you see the time has expired.

You can spot the difference between the two attitudes a mile away. The former won't help with rush or crisis situations at work because "it's not in my job description." The latter never bats an eye about pitching in or staying late because the good of the company trumps convenience and protectiveness.

Couples determined to work things out by the rules of fair play are a counselor's nightmare. She doesn't think she's getting what she deserves. He is convinced he is doing everything anybody could expect. So the battle over rights and duties, expectations and demands is on. Few couples wind up in that same office or in divorce court when he is looking for ways to surprise her with kindness — only to be outdone by her creativity in showing how much she loves him.

Jesus was above the rules.
Churches are afflicted with the same problem. The term is "legalism" for trying to fix, place, and set in order by laws. Its opposite is not liberalism but "grace." By the rules of time and place, Jesus should not have prepared food on the Sabbath or stood in the way of a mob intent on stoning a woman who had been caught "in the very act" of adultery.

Jesus was above the rules. He wasn't arrogant, self-centered, and willing to break the laws of heaven or earth. But he knew that law's higher purpose was always to protect, empower, and love people. Thus he associated with, showed kindness to, and made disciples of people who had been rejected by most.

We must guard against making the rules hateful by losing sight of people.