Principles and Methods

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”  (John 5:8–14)

One of the toughest things to deal with is chronic physical pain. After exhausting their medical options, some people slip into a depression as they lose hope for any healing in their life.

Occasionally, however, someone is delivered from chronic pain, either by the hand of God or hand of a doctor. In John 5, Jesus heals a man who has suffered constant pain and disability for 38 years – longer than many men even lived in that day.

How did the religious leaders respond? Not with a cheer, but rather with a criticism.


Because, in their eyes, Jesus healed the man in the wrong way. The Old Testament commanded God’s people to rest from their work on the Sabbath. Some religious leaders sought to enforce this biblical principle with their own methods. The result was a long and complicated list of what you could and could not do on the Sabbath. For example, you could save a dying person on the Sabbath, but since this man was technically not dying, the religious leaders considered Jesus’ healing to be a violation of their rules. To make matters worse, the healed man was also in violation of their laws since the religious leaders also considered that action an additional violation of their rules. Instead of changing their views to agree with Jesus, the religious leaders do as we all do at some point and disagree with Jesus, thinking that He is wrong and we are right.

There is an important principle in this scene. God’s Word gives us lots of principles that are unchanging and fixed. But, with wise counsel and the leading of the Holy Spirit, God’s people are to use a variety of changing and flexible methods by which we are to be obedient to God’s principles. It is vital to distinguish between principles and methods.

For example, the Bible tells parents to educate their children. That is a principle. There are various methods that parents can use to educate their children. Examples include using a home school, non-Christian private school, Christian school, public school, and online school. There are variations in each of these categories, and the possibility of blending categories.

When we glorify our method and pretend that everyone who has a different method is sinning against God’s principle, we have gone too far and become more dogmatic than God. This is precisely what happened with the religious leaders who took God’s principle of the Sabbath and demanded that even their God, Jesus Christ, not violate their methods.

How about you? Is there any area of your life where you are too dogmatic about your method?

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