Rules; March 24, 2020

1 Timothy 1:5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

You can extrapolate from this that the purpose of every rule in the Church should be to promote love. That actually is very much in keeping with the rest of the Bible, since as Jesus said, the greatest and second commandments both deal with love. (Matthew 22:37-40) We create rules for all sorts of reasons, from a desire for uniformity (which is not the same as unity) to a raw thirst for power. Rules that come from all these lesser motives bind instead of liberate, tear down instead of build up. God’s rules are not like that, as John pointed out. (1 John 5:3) Too often we seem to have rules for the sake of rules! In the current administration in the US, the majority of the advances for the sake of the nation have come from removing rules and relaxing regulations, and the nation has thrived as a result. Many more such constricting regulations have come to light as a result of the current health crisis, and they are being relaxed or eliminated at a great rate. That should be a lasting good that will come out of the tragedy! We have great trouble coming to the place of faith expressed by Augustine of Hippo: “Love God and do as you please.” Most of us have never loved God enough for that to be fully operative. As Paul expressed it, “Christ’s love compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) That’s stronger than a rule! One of the fundamental paradoxes of the kingdom of God is that loving Him fully brings both total submission and total liberty. As again Paul said, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) Are you tired of rules? Then love God with all you are!

This is something I am more convinced of the longer I live. It has always bothered me that many school rules, at least in Japan, seem to be for the purpose of teaching the students to break or ignore rules, because they are so absurd. Sadly, a lot of laws seem to be the same way. The fallen nature of man requires basic guidelines, as in the 10 Commandments, but God’s rules are always and only to keep us out of trouble, to keep us from hurting ourselves and those around us. Since I graduated from college (and got married) in 1969, in the middle of the hippie era, I know all about rebellion against “the man,” violating norms simply because they are norms. I have also seen a lot of destruction and death that has come from that. We protested the Vietnam War with “Make love, not war,” but didn’t distinguish love from sex, and society is still suffering the fallout from that. God’s rules are from, and seek to engender, agape love. I must never forget that, in my interactions with Him and with those around me.

Father, thank You for using even something as destructive as COVID-19 for good. (Romans 8:28) I see not only needless regulations being abolished, I also see people straightening out their priorities and seeing each other as people again, instead of adversaries. I pray that the infection would die down promptly, but even more, I pray that all of Your purposes in allowing it to happen would be fulfilled, for the benefit of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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