Rules, rules, rules!

Something I hear often is that Christians have too many rules and that Christians can’t have any fun. In high school, I had one particular friend who had no experience with Christians other than the fact that they were boring. I tried very hard to explain to him that we aren’t boring and can have fun, and tried to show him that my church friends and I could have fun. I wanted him to know that just because we didn’t cross the border to get drunk and do who knows what every Friday didn’t mean that my friends and I didn’t have a good time together; it was just a different kind of fun than he was used to. He was often surprised at the good times my friends and I had without doing anything illegal and staying completely sober.

In high school, I couldn’t communicate this issue to my friend very well. It has taken a long time for me to understand it and I think it is something a lot of people still struggle with. It isn’t about the rules. God doesn’t create a lot of rules simply to make our lives boring and to watch us fail. God gives us guidelines for or lives because he loves us. He has created these guidelines to enhance our lives; to give us freedom. He knows what is best for us and wants the best for us. The guidelines he places in our individual lives are so that we can live freely, without the pains and burdens that are of this world.

It is when I’m not in communion with the Father that these guidelines begin to feel restrictive and more like pointless rules than guidelines that lead me to freedom. I know when my relationship with God is not where it should be because the things of the world become appetizing and the fact that I can’t partake feels unfair and restrictive. It isn’t about me following rules or not, it is a heart issue; where am I in my walk with my God? Am I in an active and healthy relationship with him or am I separated from him because of my sin, guilt, shame, etc.?

I think there is a spectrum in the way we view God’s guidelines. On one side, we view them as restrictive rules that don’t bring freedom and peace. We resent them, refuse to acknowledge them and resist anyone who tries to call us to the table when we aren’t following them. At times on this spectrum, we are afraid to tell anyone about them because we see them as a negative in our own lives. We don’t see the freedom and therefore we don’t feel there is anything positive to share. We hate the guidelines and can’t understand their propose. This is a heart issue. On the other side of the spectrum, we focus on guidelines so much that we can’t live life. We tell everybody about the guidelines and turn people off because we aren’t focused on the outcome, but rather the guideline itself. We live a life that is restrictive and speak of our martyrdom; we resist anyone who speaks of freedom. The difference on this side is that we acknowledge the rules, and make them a huge part of our lives. However, the similarity is that we aren’t living in communion with God because if we were, we wouldn’t be on either end of the spectrum. There would be a healthy understanding of the guidelines and an inward and outward gratitude for the freedom the bring. Neither of these ends of the spectrum are healthy our what God has intended. As I said before, God intends these guidelines to bring freedom and enhance our lives. It is an issue of the heart and maturity when we find ourselves not in the middle of the spectrum, which is in a committed relationship with Christ.

As a parent (not only do I have my little man these days, but we also have a beautifully and wonderfully made 13 year old in our home), I understand this concept more and more fully.  I know that when I tell Micah, “not for babies” and I use a stern voice tone he is going to look at me and push his bottom lip out and then cry a little and I am going to have to kiss him and give him something that is for babies because that is what is best for him.  He doesn’t know it yet, but touching the hot oven rack will hurt him and my guidelines for his life are truly for his good.  In the same vein, when I tell our 13 year old that she cannot go to Taco Bell without an adult, I know that she is going to be disappointed and not understand, but I also know that my guidelines are for her own good.  If she were to go by herself, she could get abducted (and I don’t even want to think of what would happen after that), or something else could happen that could be prevented if she were with a responsible adult.  I am willing to deal with the pouty lip from Micah and the silent treatment from the teenager because I love them that much.  My hope is that one day my children will love their children enough to have these guidelines as well.  That will tell me that they understand and that they no longer view those guidelines as restrictive but have matured and know that those guidelines were for their own good.  And in the example of Micah, my hope is that when he is an adult and can freely touch the hot oven rack, he will decide not to because he knows it isn’t going to be good for him.

God likens Himself to a parent frequently in the Bible and I love that about Him.  Putting it in that perspective has helped me understand Him, especially when it comes to guidelines and freedom.  I appreciate that He has put guidelines in my life because I know that He loves me enough to do so.  I know that I am loved enough that someone cares to look ahead and say, “that isn’t going to be good for you, so I’m going to say no right now.”  I am romanced by that idea.  As a woman, I want to be in a loving relationship with someone who wants to protect me through His love.  As a child, I want a parent who is strong enough to be firm through His love.  It is only when I am not where I need to be in my relationship with God that ungratefulness seeps in.  That ungratefulness is supposed to act as a compass, though.  I am not supposed to stay ungrateful and bitter.  I am supposed to look at that ungratefulness and say, “something is not right” and fix it.

With relationship comes responsibility. When God created man, He created relationship and when He created relationship, He created responsibility.  Man walked away from that responsibility and there were consequences.  Nothing has changed.  Relationship between man and God, between Creator and creation, still exists and therefore responsibility in relationship still exists.  God created the institution of marriage to be the closest earthly representation of His relationship with His people and I do not think anyone would deny the fact that there is responsibility within a marriage relationship, so why do we fight against responsibility within our relationship with the creator of all things good?  Again, it is a heart issue.  So evaluate.  Where are you on the spectrum?  If you aren’t in the middle, grateful for the guidelines that God has given you and basking in the freedom those guidelines bring, I encourage you to evaluate your heart.  Know that holding up on your end of responsibility results in a beautifully masterminded freedom that cannot be recreated elsewhere.  And take heart my friends who live in the middle… you are right where you need to be despite any persecution that may come of it.

“Cry In My Heart”– Starfield

There’s a cry in my heart
For Your glory to fall
For Your presence to fill up my senses
There’s a yearning again
A thirst for discipline
A hunger for things that are deeper

Could You take me beyond?
Could You carry me through?
If I open my heart?
Could I go there with You?
For I’ve been here before
But I know there’s still more
Oh, Lord, I need to know You

For what do I have
If I don’t have You, Jesus?
What in this life
Could mean any more?
You are my rock
You are my glory
You are the lifter
Of my head
Lifter of this head

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4 thoughts on “Rules, rules, rules!

  1. Really well said my friend. Being a parent really enlightens you doesn’t it? About your relationship with your heavenly Father and about your own parents too. Luv and miss you tons.

  2. Love! This is sooo true, lady. I used to waver between seeing God as legalistic and a “kill joy”. Thank Him, I have learned that true freedom and JOY is found only in having a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. Thanks for sharing your perspective on the faith!

  3. Pingback: If you REALLY Loved Jesus « Carelessly Passionate

  4. Pingback: Grey? What is Grey? « Carelessly Passionate

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