During a sermon on this topic, we looked at the rules of our faith in a way that caused a lot of discussion. Let’s just say there are some interesting starting points for the conversation to be found in this. You can watch it below.
Watch this 60 second video that introduces our topic for this session.
There are a couple of things you might want to consider after watching that:
First, what is your response when someone tells you what to do? Do you push back, rebel, or resist or do you usually fall in line pretty easily?
Second, how does your relationship with the person/source of the rules affect your response? The video suggests that being in a good relationship with that person/source makes following the rules easier. What do you think?
Regardless of how you respond to the questions above, there are some things about God’s rules that are important to keep in mind. First among them is this:
God established rules as a means to care for God’s people in the context of a relationship (not as a condition of it.).
According to the story of our faith, God’s first priority was to build a strong relationship with God’s people. God wanted the people to know that they were created by, cared for, and deeply loved by God. The rules that God gave the people were given in the context of that established relationship.
This is so important: God did not create rules as a condition of being in relationship with God.
In the Old Testament, we see the people of God living outside of the rules a lot, they even outright reject them at times. In spite of that, God never walks away from the relationship, in fact God never gives up on trying to restore any fractures that came through the abandonment of the law.
If keeping the rules was a condition of a relationship with God, that relationship would have been incredibly short lived.
Instead, the rules were given in the context of a relationship for the care and well being of God’s people. Just as parents create rules to protect and care for their children, so God does for us.
So, if the rules of God were given in the context of a relationship and for the care and well being of God’s children, then how did we get to the place where the focus of religion has shifted toward the rules instead of the relationship?
The Pharisees are a great example of how this can happen. The following illustration, written by Eugene Peterson, demonstrates how we are often just like them:
Imagine yourself moving into a house with a huge picture window overlooking a lake with a grand view of mountains beyond. Snow-capped mountains, beautiful mountains. You have a ringside seat, before all of this beauty, the cloud formations, the wild storms, the entire spectrum of sun illuminated colors, and the rocks and the trees and the wildflowers and the water. At first you’re just captivated by this view. You sit and you stand and you look and admire; you catch your breath. Several times a day you interrupt your work and stand before this window to take in the majesty and the beauty. And then one day you notice some bird droppings on the glass, and you get a bucket of water and a towel and you clean it. A couple of days later, a rainstorm leaves the window streaked and the bucket comes out again. One day some visitors with a tribe of small dirty-fingered children come, and the moment they leave you notice there are smudge marks all over the window. They’re hardly out of the door before you have the bucket out again. You’re so proud of that window, and it’s such a large window. But it’s incredible how many different ways foreign objects can attach themselves to that window, obscuring the vision, distracting from the vision. Keeping that window clean now becomes compulsive neurosis. You accumulate ladders and buckets and squeegees. You construct scaffolding outside and one inside; you have to get to all the difficult corners and heights. You end up having the cleanest window in North America, but it’s now been years since you’ve looked through it. You’ve become a Pharisee.
One of the tragedies of misunderstanding God’s rules is that it can cause us to view religion as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Watch what this 60 Second Video says about that idea.
A faith focused on rules is a faith that one must endure. A faith focused on the loving relationship we can have with God is a faith that becomes a joy to embrace.
So, while rules are an inevitable and even needed part of our religion, they are not at the core of our faith. At the core of our faith is a love so deep that it transcends all rules. May we be a people who embrace that love, live in that love, and seek to share that love in order that the world may gain a new starting point when it comes to understanding the role of rules in our religion.
If you have a thought to share or question to ask, feel free to post a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!