i hate rules

i have noticed that one of the things Christians are known for is our rules. we have rules about so many things that people on the outside will quite often look at us and wonder what we are “allowed” to do…because it may seem like we aren’t “allowed” to do much. the irony is that Jesus entered into the world through an ethnic culture that loved rules, rules, and more rules, yet His work freed them and us from these very rules. the freedom that they gained (if they chose to accept it, just like us) was that they were free from the penalties of breaking these rules as well as freedom from having to jump through any sort of hoop in relation to their religion. when Gentiles (non-Jewish people) began to believe in Jesus, there arose a question: “do they need to keep our laws?” the Jews had an age old system of law that had been handed down for generations, originating from Moses, and they had laws for so much of life. laws stating that the men had to be circumcised on the 8th day after they were born, and that they couldn’t eat meat unless it was from certain types of animals (it had to chew cud and have cloven hooves), and about the way they would take care of the poor and the homeless. the answer about whether or not the Gentile converts had to keep the law was pretty simple, “to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:20) that was it. from what was called the Jerusalem Council, there were no rules imposed on them about drinking alcohol, dancing, tattoos, how they dressed, whom they could marry, or anything else. they simply had these simple things to live by. they could not be Christian and idolaters (duh!), and they had to be true in their marriage (again, duh!), and they told them not to eat meat that was killed by strangulation (a seriously offensive thing to Jews) and they could not consume blood (again, seriously offensive to Jews and to God as recorded in the Old Testament). there was a group of people called the Judaizers, and their goal in life was to make all people that converted to Christianity also adhere to the rules of the Jewish faith, namely circumcision. so essentially they were teaching a salvation of faith in Christ plus necessary behaviors in order to be truly Christian. the Apostle Paul was strongly against this and sternly confronted the teachings of these individuals in the area of Galatia. he had some very strong words for such men, suggesting that they “emasculate themselves” (an obvious attack on their stubborn position on circumcision, Paul was telling these men to go ahead and “cut it off” themselves!) and truly live out their own twisted view of the Gospel (Galatians 5:12). Paul went on in the next verse to say that they (the believers) were called to freedom…but then he said something so very serious that i have spent much time in stir over it. he said that they needed to make sure and not use their freedom as an opportunity to serve their sinful desires. they were called to a free life and that is what Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians is based on, but if that freedom took them down a path that was at all compromised by sinful desires then it was a path that truly took them away from freedom and back into sinful bondage.

the freedom Paul spoke of was entirely new in the world and he believed that they should not take it for granted. they should live as those that were truly thankful for this new freedom and use the opportunities that this newly found liberty provided in order to love and serve others…never even acknowledging the idea that this freedom was for their enjoyment…because the idea, the real principle in place is that we are free to love, free to serve, free to give, free to worship, free for the sake of the world, free for the glory of God…and the idea of freedom for the sake of our own personal conduct and license was seemingly not really even something intended…

so here we are…2000 years later…we are still free…but do we act like it? do we realize it? it seems as though there are two extremes these days. the first is the extreme that loves rules. and this extreme really loves to love rules. in this subculture we have those that have come up with rules relating even to which translation of the Bible believers are allowed to use…forgetting that having the freedom to have a Bible…any Bible… is something that people in oppressive nations don’t even understand. but then there’s the other end of the spectrum…and that is the one that i think may go overlooked a bit more…those of us that teach the very same things in the New Testament: that we were set free from obligation to rules and rituals in Christ…sounds good to me…i love it…but it has a major hiccup…the hiccup of licentiousness (this word means having no boundaries in relation to rules…having full license to do what one wants to do.) this is actually a pretty big hiccup. it’s a real problem, because it seems as though many of us don’t understand why we’ve been set free. we seem to think it’s so we can do whatever, say whatever, spend our money on whatever, etc. we don’t stop for a moment and realize that the intention behind freedom had nothing to do with self-gratifying practices but had everything to do with sharing the beauty of the Gospel with a world under the yoke and chains of sin.

i hate rules…i hate that we love to make them…but what i hate the most is when i see a need for them…i hate when i see that we are abusing our freedoms just like a bunch of 5th graders when the teacher leaves the room…and we grieve the Spirit of God…all in the name of Christian freedom. when we use our freedom as an opportunity to carry out certain behaviors, we spit in the face of a Messiah who came to heal the sick, save the lost, and set the captives free…we negate His command to love others above ourselves…we seriously grieve Him and i think even anger Him…

rules are made because of behavior that crosses lines…rules are, more often than not, made out of response and reaction to practices…wouldn’t it be great if the Body of Christ lived and practiced in such a way as to not need any rules…if we lived and loved and served in such ways that put others first…against such there is no rule.

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4 comments on “i hate rules

  1. BobMoonMan says:

    Great insight. Thanks Steve.

  2. Brad Mehder says:

    I have been contemplating the idea of: “if we lived and loved and served in such ways that put others first” for the last couple of ideas. I think this is a huge step in humanity becoming civilized. By civilized, I mean by definition: “a stage of social, cultural, and moral development considered to be more advanced”. Think Star Trek TNG.

    In order to do this, in my opinion, we do have to let go of rules. Instead, we need shared goals. From these shared goals, will come new priorities. And, as important, a new shared resistance to things that keep us from obtaining these goals.

  3. Chris Reese says:

    without rules, there is chaos….. but i get what u sayin steve

    • steve c. says:

      i agree…but i think that He set us free from the necessity of rules via the leadership of His Spirit…so it’s tragic that we do revert to chaos without the rules. if we are lead by Him they would not be necessary and i think that the fact that they are necessary points to an alarmingly scary notion…

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