A Church of Principle

A while back, I bought a DVD player. Soon after buying it, it stopped working. It was under warranty, so I took it back to the store where I bought it. The attendant looked at my receipt and said that she couldn’t exchange it because the warranty had expired two days prior.

I was upset. Sure, I had brought it back after the warranty expired, but the machine started malfunctioning a long time before that. She could have filled in the damaged date retrospectively and exchanged it for a new one. Wouldn’t that be true customer service?

As time passed, I realized that I was wrong to be upset. I was at fault for neglecting to bring in the broken DVD player earlier, not her. She was simply following the rules. In fact, I should have commended her for sticking to the rules, especially since I pride myself on being a man of principle, to the point of sometimes even being accused of being too strict.

Several years ago, a Pastor from Korea wanted to participate in our internship program while he was in the U.S. Participants are required to spend at least two weeks in the dormitory and attend two Sunday worship services. But he could stay for only 10 days, so we rejected his application. He was angry that we didn’t make an exception for him, accusing us of being legalists.

Although I try to stick to the rules as much as I can, I do make a lot of exceptions. For example, we once had a dying cancer patient who received Jesus Christ as his Savior. He wanted to be baptized, but because of his condition, it would have been difficult to baptize him by immersion (many tubes were attached to his body). So I – a Baptist minister – baptized him by sprinkling.

I insist in sticking to the rules only when people deliberately try to circumvent them or consider only their own convenience. Bending the rules to accommodate their whims would not help them personally but would only bring confusion in the church community.

We have many church rules dealing with things like church membership, changing house churches, taking the Life series Bible studies, and selecting missionaries to support. If you are denied something because it’s against our rules, don’t be upset. I would rather hope that you’d be proud that our church is a church of principle.

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