Rules Are Good
And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you (Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:1; ESV)
I tend to overreact. It's not good. I was thinking about this the other day and realized that this is something that I learned in my childhood. My mother overreacted a lot. I don't know why, but she had a lot of fears and they manifested through her tendency to immediately panic over a great many things, that I now know (in my head at least), are really no big deal. I don't overreact to everything, mind you. I think of my friends that totally freak out over spiders. I don't. But I don't put down those who do, since I know what it is like to overreact over nothing. Yes, spiders are nothing to freak out about. We once had a plumber who wouldn't do needed work on our house until we got rid of (what he thought was) the black widow spider in our crawl space. He was certain that it was a black widow because of the documentary he saw on television; in spite of the fact the no such spiders inhabited our region of the world. But don't worry; we don't live in that house any more anyway.
My bit of insight the other day about my own tendency to inappropriately overreact helps me to understand a particular common overreaction among Bible believers. It's an overreaction to rules. It seems to me that "rule" is the latest four-letter-word for a lot of people. Bad used to be defined by sin, which is the breaking of God's rules, now it's the rules themselves that are the cause of every evil thing. It's as if we got rid of all rules, then we can finally be free to be all that God wants us to be. Nothing can be further from the truth.
To be fair, there is a thread of truth woven through such a misunderstanding. God's rules in the Scripture do expose our inability to live the quality of life God demands, graphically demonstrating our need for his salvation. One of the main purposes for the coming of the Messiah was to resolve the guilt incurred by the breaking of God's rules. The death of Yeshua makes forgiveness before God possible for those who truly trust in him, thus removing the condemning effect of our sins. But does that mean every single rule God has ever spoken is now null and void?
We don't have the time here to get into a whole discussion about how to determine which of God's rules apply to our era and why, but to claim that under the New Covenant inaugurated by the Messiah God's rules are irrelevant is an overreaction of the worst kind.
There's no way that I can speak for everyone who adheres to "rules are bad", but it seems to me that many people who were raised in supposed Bible-believing homes, were abused by rules, contrary to a correct representation of the Bible's teaching on this matter. Too often rules, whether the ones truly spoken by God or humanly created ones, have been misused as standards of acceptance - acceptance by God, acceptance by family, acceptance by the religious community. But this was not God's intention - ever. A lot of Christians are surprised to learn that even in the early days of the people of Israel, God gave his rules to them, not as a test of acceptance, but as a gift to a people already accepted. God rescued the people from bondage first and then gave him his Word to direct them on how to be his people, not as a way to become his people.
Rules indeed are bad when misused. When used as indicators of relationship with God and others they can be highly destructive. But when we stand in the security of knowing we are God's children due to trusting in what Yeshua has done for us, God's rules bring life.
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