Our common reaction, even as we get older, is that “rule” was made to make my life harder, or limit my freedoms, or something else. Of course, in our current era, you may have immediately turned to face masks or even the potential of some sort of requirement for vaccination against COVID. This isn’t new: motorcycle helmets, no smoking, seat belts, and likely thousands of laws that limit freedom on the front end, but have had other beneficial effects, many of which we cannot see (such as with face masks) because there is really no way to do a control test without putting lives at risk.
That is one of the issues that Moses had with explaining the whys of following the Law. Following the Law did not come first. Following the Law came second. This actually may be the real pitfall of how the leaders of the Jewish religion became misguided. They appear to have started with step 2, with the presumption that a successful completion of step 2 would mean that they would “get” step 1.
In Christian jargon, we often place this under the title of legalism. Earning God’s love through following the rules. If a parent only shows their love to their child when their child obeys perfectly, we’d generally question their parenting and probably their understanding of love. Yet, this is often how many people view God and God’s love.
Loving God doesn’t make following the rules any easier. Love, however, helps us to carry on when we don’t really understand. This is especially important as—just like our rules and laws, such as seat belts—God doesn’t want us to experience the natural and spiritual consequences of our actions. God wants us to instead experience the fullness of God’s love.
- To you, what is the difference between being legalistic, and following the rules? How might that affect your relationship with God?
- How do you think through your actions regarding consequences, especially those that might have long-term consequences that you can’t predict or otherwise see?