Posted On May 7, 2011
Rules. Blech. Nobody likes rules. Except, maybe, the people whose job it is to enforce them, who get to slap us on the wrist when they catch us breaking them. Rules constrain our creativity, hamper our free will, steal our happiness. They keep us from doing what we want to do. And nobody likes that. Especially in the Western world. We rebel against “The Man,” the oppression of rules, declare our right of free speech, and press forward through the barriers of oppression that are these…ugh…rules.
From our earliest days we press the boundaries, trying to break free of that which constrains us. Sometimes it is a good thing – many people have broken the “rules” placed on them by culture, by environment, by social norms, etc., and brought tremendous and wonderful change to the world around them. Think: Martin Luther King Jr., William Wilberforce, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and many many others. Even Jesus Himself was very harsh against the religious leaders of His day because of the huge burden of rules they placed upon people. But much of the time, our rebellion against rules is for personal reasons, not the betterment of others.
When we think back to when we were kids, we can remember things like our mom saying, “Don’t touch that, it’s hot.” Several times. But each time, we reach for it again. We don’t like the rule that was placed on us just then, so we wait until she isn’t looking and grab it. Then we realize – hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have touched that. As we look back on moments like that, we realize that mom wasn’t cruelly trying to deprive us of the joy of having our flesh seared. She was trying to protect us and keep us from harm out of her love, concern, and care for us. In reality, if she hadn’t tried to keep us from that pain, then we would not only question her love, but probably call DCFS on her. Love sets boundaries out of care and concern.
And yet, even despite experiences like that, we do everything we can to overcome rules. We just try to be more sneaky about it. Speed limit 55? I’ll go 57. Express checkout lane 8 items? I’ve only got 10. Take one please? Well, I’ll pick up one for my friend (oops I forgot to give it to him, oh well.) And I’m sure we can all think of a number of other cases like that too.
Many times in life we can view God in a similar light. The Cosmic Killjoy. The Hater of Happiness. The Giant Yardstick in the Sky, just waiting to slap our hands. Trying to repress us from what we know is best and good. Rules. Pffh. But just like with our mom telling us not to grab something hot, we need to look behind the words of the rules at the One who gave the rules. We need to look at His Heart to see exactly why he gave us those rules.
It’s not about keeping us from “fun.”
Jesus said it most succinctly in Matthew 22:40, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” What was He talking about? Love. Love for God, love for others, and love for self.
The underlying reason behind all those rules that God puts on us is because of His love for us and His desire for what’s best for our lives. Seriously. Look at the ten commandments for example:
“Do not murder.” That’s an easy one. If we murder someone, we’re definitely not showing love for them.
“Do not steal.” There’s another easy one. By stealing, we’re saying that the other person doesn’t deserve what they have and we deserve it more than they do.
But what about some of the others? Some of them don’t seem quite as cut-and-dry as those, right?
“Do not covet your neighbor’s [whatever].” The key her is the word “covet.” Basically, don’t envy your neighbor’s [whatever]. Envy (and covetousness) isn’t “wow, Joe has such an awesome wife, I hope that I can meet someone like that some day.” Envy says, “wow, Joe has such an awesome wife, I want her.” Envy controls us. Envy poisons our heart. Envy hurts not only ourselves, but others as well.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” By keeping it holy, we’re intended to keep it separate. To make it different from the other days of the week. When God created the world, He rested on the seventh day. It’s not that He was tired or worn out. He was setting an example for us. He knew that we were finite, that we couldn’t run 24×7. We need to stop sometimes. And so, He set an example and said basically, “See, follow me. I rested for a day, and the world didn’t fall apart by My doing so. And if I can rest, so can you.” Basically, He commands us to rest because He knows that left to our own devices, we’ll burn ourselves out. So it is out of His love for us that He says, “Stop it! Rest!”
If you look through the rest of the commandments, as well as many many other places throughout scripture, and really consider the heart of the One who made those rules and set those boundaries, you can easily see the why behind them.