Summary: The Bible demands that you be open to the power of exceptions, for only those who are, are open to the spirit of grace. Even under Old Testament law we see examples of exceptions that allow grace to dominate.
Thousands of young boys walked past the Bathwell Castle in England, and none ever dreamed
of climbing up the chimney to carve his name at the top. There was one exception, however. One
boy did the unusual, and his name was David Livingstone. That boy went on to become one of
histories most famous missionaries to Africa. Browning wrote,
You see lads walk the street.
Sixty the minute, what's to note in that?
You see the one lad astride the chimney stack.
Him you must watch.
Browning is saying, keep your eyes on the exception, for the exception may be more significant than
the rule. The age old saying that the exception proves the rule is nonsense. What it proves is that
the rule is not all there is. It proves the rule does not cover all cases, and to say it does, in the face of
an exception, is to say that a black sheep proves that all sheep are white. The exception does not
prove the rule, it breaks it, and shows that reality is more complex than the rule. Science must
constantly reckon with exceptions. It cannot say, light is always a wave, for there are conditions
under which light behaves like a particle. This exceptional behavior cannot be dismissed as
irrelevant, but must be incorporated into the total picture. Darwin had to postpone the publishing of
his book for 29 years, because he had to be honest about exceptions. Often he would exclaim,
"This little beast is doing just what I did not want him to do."
Ignore exceptions, and you become, not a seeker for truth, but a manipulator of facts to get your
own way, and a narrow minded legalist, whose only concern is getting your own way. The Bible
demands that you be open to the power of exceptions, for only those who are, are open to the spirit of
grace. Even under Old Testament law we see examples of exceptions that allow grace to dominate.
The law forbids the Jews to marry Caananites or Moabites, but Rahab the Caananite and Ruth the
Moabite are in the blood line of Jesus. They became exceptions by their faith, and played a major
role in God's plan.
The Jews recognized the need to be flexible, and open to exceptions. It was the law that all male
babies be circumcised on the eighth day. It was a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. But
there were conditions that could alter this law, and allow for an exception. A Rabbi wrote, "If a
mother has lost 2 sons by the fever following circumcision, the operation on the third should be
deferred until he is grown and strong." Here was a circumstance where holding to the letter of the
law would be cruel. You destroy the whole spirit of the law if you cannot adjust to exceptions. This
was the whole point of Jesus breaking the Sabbath laws to heal people. He was making it clear man
was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man, and, therefore, it is always right
to do good on the Sabbath. The rule is for man's good, but if the exception is even better, then the
rule can be broken. The exception is more important than the rule, if it accomplishes the purpose
that made the rule good in the first place.
Exceptions are so vital to the whole plan of God that there would be no New Testament without
the power of the exception. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, is the blanket of
condemnation that falls over the whole of humanity. All, that is, except one. There is one glorious
exception to this rule, and that one exception-the Lord Jesus Christ, by not falling short of God's
glory, made it possible for there to be a perfect sacrifice to take away the sin of the world. In other
words, through this one exception the door is opened for grace to triumph over law, and allow all
men to escape the condemnation of the law. God's entire plan of salvation is based on the power of
Jesus stressed the motivating power of the exception in His own ministry. The 99 followed the
rule, and they stayed in the fold, but the one exception wandered away. Jesus says the exception is
what dominates the shepherd's mind, for he leaves the 99 and goes after the one to seek and to save
it, and when he does, all heaven rejoices over that one exception being found. The point is,
sometimes it is the exception that matters most. Those Christians who refused to deal with exception
tend to become legalists, like the Pharisees, and depart from the spirit of Christ. Much of the conflict