Monday, June 8, 2009

Rules and Variances

I have recently been forced to think about rules and variances. A variance is basically permission to break a rule. Growing up, I think I took advantage of many variances, either granted by someone in authority (parent, teacher) or self-assigned. I was good at the self assigned variances. Then again, I think we all are. We all tend to let ourselves off with a lesser judgment than we use on those around us.

Anyway, the reason for my most recent thinking about variances is that we have started the process of adding on to the parsonage that we live in. The first step (so I thought) was to get a building permit - ah, but Dept. of Health has to sign off, you need drawing, and oops, you may need a variance. Practically, a variance will mean that the code enforcement officer will send letters to all my neighbors explaining that we want to add on, and ask them if they have any objections, and set a date for a public hearing on the matter. (I know, how official) The reason for the variance is that the parsonage sits on a sub-standard lot by size. I guess 1/2 an acre isn't enough - if the farmer who donated the land would have known this 130 years ago, this wouldn't be a problem today, he simply would have deeded the church more land. Oh well.

Some people cringe at the idea of needing a variance. Why can't the code enforcement official just make a decision? To me, it seems that the variance process is just another example of the democratic principles that make our nation great. Rather than the power resting in one individual, the power rests in the community. A hassle, but in principle, I agree with the idea. It really makes you think twice about being a good neighbor.

So you may be wondering, there is usually a sermon in here somewhere. Here it is, simply: I am so glad that God doesn't work using variances. When it comes time for judgment, He won't say, "Well, you've broken my rules, let's see if we can get you a variance. We will ask everyone who ever knew you if they think you should get into heaven." What a nail-biter that would be for many. God made a new rule. For those who had broken His law (everyone), His new rule is:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Christ paid the penalty for us, and since he did, the law is no longer broken, and no variance is needed.

Still hoping no variance is needed for the house, but always grateful that a variance is never needed with God.