The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Rules are a necessary aspect of a civilized culture in order that people might act appropriately and be treated fairly.  The making of rules is for the protection of all individuals.

But some rules are extremely fascinating and hard to understand.  Sometimes we go too far in making our rules.  One example is some of the hundreds of rules imposed by the NCAA to regulate college athletics.  Last year South Carolina self-reported several NCAA rules violations, including one for “impermissible icing on cookie cakes” given to recruits.  I guess it is okay for the coaches and press to have those cookie cakes with impermissible icing, but not a recruit.

Soccer is the biggest sport in the world and is gaining popularity in the United States.  In order to regulate soccer, a lot of rules are created and enforced.  Slovenia played England in Wembley Stadium.  It is 164 feet – that is only about 55 yards – from the hotel used by the Slovenian National Soccer team.  They wanted to walk to the stadium from the hotel for their game.  The UEFA cited a rule and ordered them to take a bus before they would be allowed to play against England.  The governing body said they wanted to ensure the team wouldn’t be late.  Slovenia lost 3-1.  Maybe they were tired from the long 164 foot bus ride!  But rules are rules.

Kimberly Thompson, an Ohio woman, was denied welfare benefits when she failed to attend mandatory job-training sessions because she was in a coma.  She spent a month in a medically-induced coma while battling a series of infections.  She woke up to the news that officials had told her she would no longer receive $700 in monthly benefits.  Kimberly’s comment was, “How are you supposed to go to class when you are in a coma?”  Rules are rules.

Some of those interesting rules actually become laws.  We have some strange ones here in Alabama.  Do you know that it is a Class A felony to assault a sporting official, but only a Class B felony if convicted of assaulting anybody else?  Now I believe in protecting referees at high school and college functions.  Some referees I have seen really need protection!  I as a spectator would like to have the same kind of protection that the referees get.  But rules are rules.

When I finished college I decided that I would referee basketball.  I got my patch, my license, and my assignment to my first game.  It was between two large Lee County schools who at that time only played basketball.  They practiced basketball 13 months a year!  One school was Beulah and the other was Beauregard.  They were intense rivals.

That night the little gym was so packed that some spectators were literally sitting on the out-of-bounds line.  Since I had grown up in Opelika in Lee County and played basketball, I thought the crowd might be a little kind to me.  Boy, was I wrong!  The crowd was about equally split between Beulah and Beauregard.  Every time I blew the whistle, half the crowd didn’t like it.  I refereed two basketball games that night – my first and my last!

When Jesus was asked about rules, He said there were only two rules – Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  If everybody obeyed these two rules, there would be no need for additional rules.  Every relationship would take care of itself.  But until everybody obeys those two rules, we will continue to have and need some rules – even the foolish ones.

More love – less rules!

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