Without Warning

Peggy and I loved our first house, and like most first-time home buyers we eagerly got to work on making the place feel like “us.” Several coats of paint covered the baseboards and window frames, for instance, so we bought a heat gun to peel back to the natural woodwork. As I opened the package and scanned the instructions, what do you think was the very first rule on the list? “Do not use as a hair dryer.” I’m not kidding. Now, a paint-stripping heat gun can reach 1000 degrees, so I understand the manufacturer’s sense of responsibility, but what does this warning tell us but that someone, somewhere, had tried to use the tool for this very purpose?

Recalling this episode from 30 years ago, I recently snooped around a bit to see what other outrageous rules I could find. There were plenty; here are a few. Dashboard sun shade: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” Dremel rotary tool: “This product is not intended for use as a dental drill.” Clothes iron: “Do not iron clothes on body.” And this one from a small-tractor manufacturer couldn’t have been more straight-forward: “Avoid death.” (Noted!) Why does the most brilliant species on the planet need such rudimentary rules to protect us from the obvious? Simple. It’s because common sense eludes us at times, doesn’t it?

We could look at God’s law the same way, couldn’t we? Think about it: Do not murder people. Do not steal other people’s stuff. Do not steal other people’s spouses, either. And don’t even think about making up other gods. I mean, why do we need warning labels for the basics of morality? Simple. It’s because, despite our best intentions, living in love can elude us, too. So, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brought the matter home a little bit more. Don’t murder people … and don’t even hold a grudge against them. Don’t steal other people’s stuff … in fact, give to those who ask. Don’t steal other people’s spouses, either … in fact, don’t even entertain the thought, but just move on. Jesus’ point? True love is selfless, no matter the cost, regardless of outcome.

Concluding the best sermon ever told, Jesus told the people this: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24, 25). He thus counseled all humankind to build our life on God’s love and truth, for real love needs no warning labels.

Jesus, your words are life. Fill us with your Spirit, that we would recall your counsel, internalize your truth, and live in the love that can only come from you. Amen.

Christ in me is wisdom.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Matthew 7:24-29.]

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