Small Print- Look, See, Pray

If a landowner permits use of a path without restriction, it becomes a Public Right of Way. There is a way to prevent the legal change: if the path is closed on at least one day per year, or the owner charges a Toll for passage, the landowner retains title and the path remains private property. I came across a fine example of the “small print” which a generous-spirited landowner used as legal protection, but allowed virtually unlimited access to the visitor.

A toll of 1p per person on “Thursday in Easter Week” is payable to use the path. (I’d love to go back one year and see if the owners actually collect their pennies!)

The arrangement satisfies the law. Few people would begrudge the toll in Easter Week! A very satisfactory rule.

We sometimes apply a similar “small print” approach to faith. It seems there is always “a rule” or two that we use to keep out the wrong sort of person. It might be unspoken expectations about what is worn in church, or which is the “best” Bible translation; or it might be made VERY obvious in plain language written down and handed out. We may do this for the best of motives: maintaining purity, or defending our particular form of “church.”

When I am tempted to behave like that, I stop and think about Jesus… and the time he scrapped the “small print.” At the Crucifixion, Jesus had two companion-victims of Roman justice.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23 v40-43

That’s grace in action. At the moment of final decision, Jesus set no tests, or uttered any “small print” caveat. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

On the Friday of Easter Week, Jesus finished all the requirement of law for all time. “It is COMPLETED!” One day I anticipate meeting that “criminal” who had no trouble with the small print- because Jesus loves to save. I wonder if he has got over the wonder of his rescue? I wonder what he’d say to us?

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