I have been letting other people's rules sit in my soul, and weigh heavy there. They are good rules, and perhaps spur them on in their faith and draw them nearer to God. But they aren't God's rules. It is man made boundaries to define what "godly" looks like, or does. I think it is all well-intentioned, someone read something in the Bible, thought they should apply that to their life, and then decided that since God spoke to them about it, He must mean that everyone else should do it too.
If I thought God had shared something spectacular with me, I would be wrong not to share, right? Go ye therefore into all the world, huh?
For all of our so-called diversity, we live in a pretty homogeneous world. Macaroni and cheese tastes like Kraft, our meat all looks the same, our eggs are all the same shape and uniform in size in the cartons. Thanksgiving dinner is pretty much the same with slight variations on the theme, across the entire country. We even dress similarly, with huge style trends that come and go. It is convenient, and less expensive, and easy to have everything mass produced, and just buy what everyone else does.
It reminds me of my sister's "secret recipe fudge". Once upon a time, when people did for themselves, and everything was not the same in a box, grammas would have their own recipes, handed down through the family. It made them unique. It was personal. Now, our secret recipe is the same one on the back of the marshmallow fluff jar.
So we go make disciples of men. Except that we are trying to make disciples of us... what we see, what we think, what we do. Because everything should be the same. And if my faith is real and vibrant for me, then have I got a formula for you! Except that God didn't create one-size-fits-all people. I really believe that if He so wanted uniformity among His creation, all tigers would have the same stripe pattern, all roses would be exactly the same, and we could make a template for snowflakes that they all would fit.
It is Stepford Faith. If we all look the same, act the same, talk the same, read the same books, listen to the same music, have the same mantras, raise the same kids, hang out together in protective bunches and never stray from the path, it is safe. We must be doing it right. Because we are all doing it the same. Right?
The Bible lays out what God says we must do. I love that it really boils down to -
1. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Simple. Love. Love naturally puts constraints and boundaries on us. When I love someone, I won't do something that hurts them. But because of my love. Not because of a pithy saying that you think I have to live by in order to meet your standard of holiness. That isn't love. That is bondage.
Colossians 3: 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Galations 5: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[a] by the law; you have fallen away from grace.5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you willtake no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers,[b] still preach[c] circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
I hear verse 9 used a lot in talking about sin. A little sin leavens the whole batch. But that is NOT what this says, in context! I never realized that verse 9 is talking about legalism. That changes so much. I might have to spend some days thinking on that. A little legalism ruins the entire thing. Why? He set us Free! I have to think that if He meant any other word than free, He would have used it. And then again, love. I have never met anyone who came to a saving relationship with Jesus because they wanted in on all the rules. They come to know Christ, because of love. In fact, the same crowd that uses verse 9 to point out how much trouble you are in backs it up with verse 13... and here... try out these rules. They will keep you safe. They will keep you steady. You will be like the rest of us. I can't help but feel, as I read the power of the Good News, see the amazing variety of folks God works, and the crazy way He brings about His will, that soul changing, life saving faith is a wild and free thing. It sees the man-rules, and laughs, and goes about its business.
So I think, after a time of meditating on this, and digging deeper, I will have a few things to say about folks who want to help me find the rules I am missing in my life. I am sure I will be a whole lot more careful about trying to "fix" other people's walks by what God has convicted me of in mine. God forbid I be the one trying to chain up His children. I know as a human parent how I would react to someone trying to do that to mine. And if it is a sin for you to be on Facebook, or carry extra pounds, or watch TV, then by all means, I will support you in it. But don't put that burden on the people around you. And absolutely don't put those chains on me. My God set me free. And since He has set me free, I am free indeed.