“When you build a new house, you must build a railing around the edge of its flat roof. That way you will not be considered guilty of murder if someone falls from the roof.”Deuteronomy 22:8
Never have I considered entertaining someone on my roof. But then, mine is rather steep and completely unuseable as an entertaining space. This was not true in the Ancient Near East or even during Jesus’ time. Rooftops were often an extension of the home, providing practical living space. Recall in the book of Acts when Peter goes to the roof to pray and he has a vision telling him to go to Cornelius. (Acts 10:9) Putting a railing around the edge of the roof was one way to love their neighbor well – make it so they can’t fall off.
It may seem this verse from Deuteronomy is one I might disregard unless I consider building a flat roof on my house. Except, recall the greatest commandment to love God with all of our being and our neighbors as ourselves. Perhaps there is something to be learned.
Last summer I purchased a new outdoor rug for the living space on my deck. During the previous winter, the squirrels chewed my more expensive rug, so I decided to choose a more economical one. Arriving home from the store, rug in hand, I put it on the deck. It looked perfect.
Until it wasn’t. I noticed almost immediately that the corners and sides of the rug tended to curl up creating a tripping hazard. It annoyed me, but I didn’t do anything about it. And I put the rug out again this summer, knowing it created a potential hazard. I muttered about it; my guests muttered about it. I decided next time I would buy a heavier rug that doesn’t curl.
Finding a solution to the rug issue didn’t become a priority until this week. Until I caught my little toe on an outdoor rug at another home and broke it. Yesterday I used rug tape to firmly plant my rug in place. Sometimes it takes “falling off the roof” to spur me to action.
If I read this verse in Deuteronomy and disregard the principle simply because I do not have a flat roof, I miss the point. If you read this post today and disregard the principle because you don’t have an outdoor rug, you miss the point.
It isn’t really about rugs or roofs, it’s about love. Loving my neighbor as I love myself. Jesus said that all the law and commandments hang on the commands to love God and love others (including myself) well. I don’t need a list of rules to guide me as I love my neighbor. Putting God in the center, where he belongs, and responding to the rest of life from that place will ensure that my actions are loving.
It is so much easier for me to excuse an injustice or risk when I am on this side, the side with the curling rug. But when I get on the other side, the one with the broken toe, I feel more indignant about securing the rug down. When it directly affects me, I want to see change.
Today, I am relying on the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart regarding the “rug” in your life. What do you consistently overlook in relationships with others, excusing obstacles because “it isn’t a big deal?” How has your “toe caught and broke” on the rug of others? How will you extend love even then?