Are you a rule keeper or a rebel? All of us have a natural tendency towards one or the other, perhaps according to the circumstances of a situation. I have a confession to make- I’m a rule keeper. A rule follower. Someone who actually likes the rules and gets upset when others break them. My husband will tell you: I’m the one who always puts the grocery cart back in the parking lot corral, and then wishes the carts could be organized alphabetically. Rules often bring order to an otherwise chaotic world, in my humble opinion. When you are a rule follower, it’s easy to think poorly of the rebels in the crowd.
If you think faith is all about the rules, you’re right, to some degree.
But it can be a bad thing to be all about the rules- if you are following the wrong rules.
Jesus Broke the Rules
Can you imagine what it would have been like to follow Jesus around while he was on the earth? To be one of his disciples and watch the miracles happen before your very eyes? One of my favorite miracle stories in the Bible is the man born blind who Jesus healed.
The religious leaders of the day had difficulty understanding Jesus. Since they didn’t believe he was the long-awaited Messiah, everything he did was scrutinized by them. How could he perform these miracles? And yet the thing that baffled them the most? He had healed a man, gasp, on the Sabbath.
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” John 9:16
How could he have the audacity to heal a man on the Sabbath? Didn’t he know the rules? The rules were that no work should be done on the Sabbath; it was a day of rest, dictated by a list of do’s and don’t’s. Don’t carry things beyond a certain number of paces. Do nothing that would gain attention. The list included not only the laws passed down from the Old Testament, but also the interpretations of those laws as understood by the law keepers of the day. But the Pharisees were missing the biggest point.
Now I’ve heard sermons about how they missed the point that Jesus broke the rules for a reason. The man was more important than the law. And that’s true.
And I’ve read messages and articles about how the Pharisees couldn’t see past the man to the message of Jesus. And that’s true too. They were trying to put God in a box; nothing can hold him.
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this beautiful miracle?
Jesus Changed the Rules
In another situation where the religious rule keepers of the day tried to test Jesus, a question of epic proportions was asked:
“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Mark 12:28
Oh mercy. It’s all about the rules, bout the rules, bout the rules.
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Essentially Jesus said, “The rules have changed. I’m here now.”
The rules under Jesus were much shorter. Rather than volumes of words that covered everything from which animals to sacrifice for which sins and not to wear two pieces of clothing made from different types of fabric, the law was boiled down to two simple rules.
If You Ever Think Faith Is About the Rules
I’m really thankful for my Christian heritage, as I grew up with wonderful Christian parents in a small community. But honestly, I missed something along the way, because when I reached my late teens and early twenties, my faith was really all about the rules. How often I needed to go to church, how many times a week I was supposed to be reading my Bible, how often should I be praying, whether or not it was ok for a woman to wear pants, how long my skirts had to be, the list could go on and on. The Christian college I attended boasted of an extremely long list of rules and I typically kept them to the letter as much as I could.
I was so caught up in keeping the rules and checking off lists that I completed missed out on the fact that Jesus changed the rules. To live out my faith in Christ, all I needed to do was love God and love others. Everything else would fall into place. No one could dictate a set of rules that would guide me. Why?
The Holy Spirit Rules Our Hearts
When Jesus left this world, he did not leave us alone. If you’ve accepted Christ as your way to Heaven, then the Holy Spirit is living inside of you; showing you the way to love God and love others. He is the one who guides us daily and he is the one who empowers us to live out those two simple rules of loving God and loving others. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit impresses on someone else; therefore I can’t know their life rules. I only know what he whispers to me as he holds my heart reins, guiding me each day.
If you’ve ever thought that faith in God is about the rules, you’re right, but the rules are no longer listed out on a piece of parchment. They are scripted into our hearts as we read God’s Word and listen to his voice.
Living out faith in Christ doesn’t mean abiding by the rules of our minds.
Living out faith in Christ means abiding in the Ruler of our hearts.
Please tell me I’m not alone here. Have you ever gotten caught up in trying to keep all the rules?