by Rev. Doug Gray
Every once in a while there’s a law just makes you wonder. For example, according to Reader’s Digest:
• Did you know that in Alaska, it’s illegal to be drunk in a bar? Ummmmm.
• In Chico, California it’s illegal to build, maintain or use a nuclear weapon?
• In Connecticut, a pickle has to bounce when dropped from a height of 1 foot.
• In French Lick Springs, IN—black cats have to wear bells on Friday the 13th,
“The rule was introduced on October 13, 1939, ‘as a war measure to alleviate mental
strain on the populace…’”
• In Wells, Maine—it’s illegal to advertise on a tombstone. Because that population
can’t go anywhere?
• In Nevada—illegal to determine someone’s shoe size with an x-ray machine.
• In New Hampshire—you can’t collect seaweed at night.
• In Oklahoma—No “horse-tripping” events…oh and no bear wrestling either.
• In Memphis, TN—You have to have a permit for begging. It used to cost $10,
but now it’s free.
• In Utah—It’s a felony to hurl a missile into a bus terminal, unless you are an
appointed officer of the peace or commercial security personnel. How is that a
good idea for anyone?
• In Vermont—They passed a law, that there can never be a law prohibiting
clotheslines. Disaster averted!
• In at least two counties in the state of Washington—It’s against the law
to poach Sasquatches on someone else’s property. 
Part of me thinks these laws are ridiculous, but you know these laws come from somewhere. Why do we even have laws? This question underlies Paul’s argument to the Galatians today, and his answer is one that defines our country, and could define our lives as well.
First, we have laws because people push and cross boundaries. Paul writes, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” What makes me a little nervous about the laws I listed up above, is that every one of them has a story. The folks in Chico wanted to make it clear they didn’t want anything to do with weapons of mass destruction. The folks in Vermont wanted to make sure they could always use clotheslines. But also the dark side of humanity: if we make panhandlers purchase a permit, then maybe we won’t have so many panhandlers, perhaps trying to make the poor less visible. The laws help us know where the boundaries are. For most of us, we would rather stay within those boundaries. But we can’t make enough laws to cover everything, to take into account every hard-hearted or ill-considered idea. We need the rule of law, as Paul says, these boundaries “imprisoned and guarded” us. We can think of the law as a way to teach us what not to do.
But second, we wouldn’t need laws if our hearts were right. Paul writes, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Imagine for a moment, if we were all as loving and gracious as Jesus. How would we treat the people around us? What would we choose to do today? Imagine for a moment, if we were to say to God, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Imagine just for a breath-taking moment, what would happen if you brought a bunch of people together who were all living that way? Where Moses’ Law in the Old Testament is mostly “Thou shalt nots,” Jesus teaches “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s huge! But harder, because in order to walk in the way of love, we have to think and feel, to pray and consider. How is God leading us? What does God want us to say or do? If our hearts are right, then we would always be in a living conversation with God, transformed by Christ—which is really what God longs for, right?
Underneath American society at it’s best is this deep, rich, transformational undercurrent. Here’s the way one former president put it in 2004:
Alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the South Side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper—that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one. 
This idea of “E pluribus unum”—out of many, one—has its roots in passages just like ours today. Paul is talking about what life as a Christian is meant to be—knowing we are all children of God. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” The genius of America is that it took that truth to heart—there’s no white America, Asia America, black America, or Latino America—there is only the United States of America. There are no Red States or Blue States, only the United States of America. What divides us is not as strong as what unites us.
On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those who have given their lives for our nation and for each of us. We have patriots who have fought in wars and patriots who have protested wars. But always we must be grateful for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice because they have done it for all of us, so that we might have the freedom to follow God as our conscience dictates. The fact of the matter is that when we put Christ at the center of our lives, surrendering to God’s direction, allowing our hearts to be transformed by Christ’s love, something extraordinary happens: we live for more than just ourselves. When we live for Christ, our lives go beyond what is legal, to what is a blessing, beyond what the law can demand, to how grace can transform not just us, but the world.
Reader’s Digest at https://www.rd.com/funny-stuff/dumbest-laws-america/
From Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic Convention. Quoted from Al Franken’s book