A group of referees for High School football games in the state of Washington decided to donate their income for last Thursday night’s games (10/21/10) to a charitable organization for breast cancer research. In addition, they decided to use pink whistles for that night’s games. (See this article.) The only problem was, state regulations concerning protocol for game officials require that black whistles be used. Therefore, these referees who carried out the heinous offense of using the pink whistles may be suspended for a couple of games.
The Washington Officials Association (WOA) maintains that rules are rules; by violating even such a minor regulation, the officials are supposedly setting a bad example for High School students. Those students might conclude from this that it’s perfectly legitimate to break the rules whenever it suits their fancy. I guess the WOA thinks those students are totally brainless! 🙄
It seems to me that the WOA would be setting the bad example, by saying that their rules are so important (even to the smallest detail) that they can’t be ‘violated’ even for the purpose of doing good and showing kindness and mercy.
Let’s see what a man who is almost universally acclaimed as a good man and Prophet of God has to say about such matters. I refer to Jesus Christ of course. He is specifically acknowledged as a messenger of God by both Christians and Muslims; and many people from other religions also highly value this man of God. I know that at least some Buddhists have come to recognize Jesus as a ‘brother’ of the Buddha; and the Hindu Paramahansa Yogananda and his guru Sri Yukteswar valued Jesus as highly as any of their Hindu saints. Even some Jews – and not just those who have ‘converted’ to Christianity or Islam – have come to recognize Jesus as one of the greatest of Hebrew Prophets. They see him as a great reformer, who sought to cleanse Judaism from some major corruptions that had crept in and defiled their religion.
So let’s see what Jesus had to say when confronting some Pharisees who were being overly zealous for details of Jewish Law:
 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.  When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.”  He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.  Or have you not read that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless?  I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.  But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the son of man is Lord of the sabbath.
 He left that place and entered their synagogue;  a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him.  He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”  Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other.  But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him (Matthew 12:1-14, New Revised Standard Version).
I think it would be very difficult, to say the least, to improve on this teaching of Jesus. 🙂 It is much better – more ‘righteous’ – to show kindness and mercy than to be a stickler for regulations. As Jesus said, referring to the Hebrew Prophet Hosea (6:6), God prefers people to show mercy more than detailed keeping of legal rules (“I desire mercy and not sacrifice”).
I hope the Washington Officials Association will learn that mercy is more valuable than ‘zeal for the law’, and will back down from their threat to penalize those referees. If they don’t, though, I hope the other officials (who weren’t refereeing Thursday night) will support their fellows by refusing to do any officiating until the WOA backs down. Then the WOA will have to decide whether their minute regulations are so important that it’s better to cancel games for lack of referees. The students, parents, and other fans already overwhelmingly support those thoughtful referees; what do you suppose their reaction will be to the WOA if they refuse to back down and the football season grinds to a halt as a result of such idiocy?
At any rate, this situation can serve as an example of a principle that each of us can practice in our own lives: kindness and love trump detailed adherence to rules and regulations. 🙂