Freeing the Rules

Psalm 119:153–168, Deuteronomy 6, Galatians 5:1–15

Rules and regulations. We often don’t like them. At the same time, there are many who are calling for more and more rules and regulations. People want to control people’s thoughts and their expressions of their thoughts. People want to control others’ behavior, but don’t want theirs controlled.

When Paul refers to the Law of the Jews (e.g., circumcision), there is a Jewish understanding that the Jews failed miserably to follow the Law perfectly. So, to do a better job of following the law that they couldn’t already follow, they added more laws.

The whys of rules and regulations should often be more the focus than the actual rules and regulations. When Moses talks about the whys, it is contained within Deuteronomy 6:4–6. “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.”

It’s not that breaking the rules wasn’t serious. It was. What was of primary importance was a relationship with God.

Note also what comes after that, teaching and guiding others into that same relationship.

Then, and only then, do we get to the rules. Many Bibles have a heading before verse 10 to the effect of Remembering God Through Obedience. So, the rules aren’t about the rules, they’re about God. For Christians, the “rules” of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are more like guidelines, good and healthy guidelines for relationships, but guidelines. They are for a time and place and context, which isn’t ours.

So, Christians create more rules. These rules are in many ways far worse than the rules of the Law. Many people use the “new” rules to condemn people to Hell, without knowing them. The rules are often used with fear and intimidation. That certainly isn’t the freedom that Paul was talking about.

1) When you think of rules, what are your feelings? How do you feel when someone else breaks the rule? How about when you break the rules?

2) Why do you think the rules and remembering are tied together? How does that affect the way you feel about rules?

3) We all set rules and expectations regarding the behavior of others. What do you do when someone violates them?