Spirit of the Law
I had picked up some Dutch licorice that I have given to a young man over the years. Now life has come crashing down on him. I worked half a day and went by his house to see if he was home. Not sure if he would be there because I had heard the good news that he was going to return to his job at Walmart. He was there, I gave him the gift with a “Merry Christmas”. “I thought you would be at work”. He explained to me that he was all set to start when they realized that his state ID had expired. He had tried to renew it but he didn’t have the needed documents and today was the last day to get it taken care of as far as this round with Walmart was concerned.
The details were that he had no documents to prove his place of residence. I gave him my thoughts on the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. The purpose of the law was to give him an ID that allowed him to legally function in society. He needed the ID to start working and in his case there was probably more at stake than just working that day. I suggested going down and renewing his card with no changes being made on his old residence. It wasn’t like the purpose of the ID was to track him and the police in town knew him and knew where he lived. (which would be evident as the afternoon progressed)
I drove him to the state office. He went in, came out, long line, went back in and I went and took care of some things for a half hour. Retuned to find out his request was denied because it had been expired for over two years and now he couldn’t renew it but had to reapply for the ID. They did a good job of explaining what he needed and gave him a list of items that could fulfill the only requirement he couldn’t fill which was his place of residence. Since he was living with his parents, all the normal things such as bills wouldn’t work for him. So we scoured the list and we came up with two that should work, although it would still require grace from two state ordained parties.
We got a rental agreement from his mom and headed over to the High School to get his transcripts. Both were on the list. I had done this before for another young man and knew that technically they wanted the transcripts mailed to his house before being brought in. I had made a big enough stink so that they let it go after I had the high school’s counselor’s secretary call in and explain that this has worked before. So I knew we had some work ahead of us still. What I did not know is that the actual counselor didn’t even put his new address on the envelope. They accepted the rental agreement but refused to accept the transcripts. We returned to the high school. I suggested now just asking for a letter on official school letterhead acknowledging his current address. That would also suffice.
He came back with the address written on the outside of the torn open transcript envelope. We both knew that wouldn’t work, so I asked him about the letter idea. She said she couldn’t do it. I had told him to give her all of the reasons why this was so important to get done today. So she knew the situation, yet she refused. I decided to go in and find out why.
I rehearsed the circumstances of the situation and added the life dynamics of his life to try and help her to see the importance of her action or inaction. Her response was that she didn’t know that he lived at that address for sure. I mentioned the rental agreement. She dismissed it out of hand as a poorly handwritten document that proved nothing. I mentioned that the state was willing to accept it as a valid document. She still refused. I said I needed to talk to someone at the school who was willing to go out on a limb to put together a letter to help this kid in a time of need. She marched me to another set of offices.
She stopped to let me know that she resented my insinuating that she was not willing to help, letting me know that her whole life revolved around helping students. I let her know that if I had meekly accepted her refusal to help, this episode in life ends with the young man not being helped. At this point the principal entered the fray. I sure am glad I read that book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I knew I was not making friends so far.
So now I am in the principal’s office once again explaining all of the details surrounding a simple request for a short letter on school letterhead acknowledging the needed address. He knows the young man and lets me know that he really wants to help but he can’t for the same reasons given by counselor. I stuck to my point that the state was willing to accept the rental agreement as proof of residence and why couldn’t he? He thought a second and explained the higher stakes of the situation. Their integrity was on the line. If they acknowledged that the young man lived at the address and he didn’t then they would lose the confidence of the community. I can’t believe I am hearing this crap.
For me there is so much more at stake than a job at Walmart. It is a young man’s life. The letter of the law kills but the spirit gives life. He needs life. I push a little harder. I finally give up and say there is only one solution if he is willing to take it. He asks what would that be? He needs to follow me to the house and see for himself whether the young man lives there or not. To his credit he chose to follow me there. The young man goes in, we talk, and the police show up.
Everything is OK so they cruise away. He is convinced. We go back. He writes a letter. The counselor tells the young man that she doesn’t mind talking to him but she never wants to talk to that other man. Winning friends. He comes out with a letter. I don’t look at it but I am sure it is properly dated today. In my mind the state office accepts a letter with the address because they assumed it was mailed to the address. In this case I am sure the principal has dated it today. We finally got grace from one set of authorities but we would need grace from the second.
The young man went in and came out with the ID. No, they technically could not accept the letter, but they chose to make an exception for him because of everything he had done to try and make it work. The spirit of the law wins out bringing life verses the letter of the law that would have brought death. We head off to Walmart and he completes the task and started work the next day.
When I finally got home after the day’s events, I had to pray. I was sensing the same combat I had felt when I took on the homosexual agenda in Seattle schools. It is not the principal, the counselor or the state workers; there is this spirit that runs the world system that seeks to grind grace and life out of people. I think about myself and how my day is coming when the grinding wheels of life, whether in church or society, take the life right out of me: 2 Cor 3:6-7 not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Is it really so hard to understand?