In conversations about what we can call the tensions or religion, the idea of "rules and regulations" often gets brought up as some of the more awkward, uneasy, or downright negative aspects of religion or "having faith" (I am personally speaking from a Christian experience). Yes, this specific vein of thinking exists in the minds of those not-yet-religious, but, I have heard a plethora of Christians discuss how much they are bothered by all of the rules in the Bible.
In recent years, there have been trends within Western Christianity pertaining to the notion of Jesus>religion, or Jesus>law, or love>everything else. There are groups and movements within the Church that are designed to bring freedom to the believer- a theme and reality that is [without question] found in the Gospel message.
What often happens, however, is a kick-back against the passages of the Bible that are labeled as "rules and regulations," or, another way of putting it- "the things that are holding back my freedom."
Most notably, the Ten Commandments. Beyond that, there is a spectrum of passages from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, to the teachings of the Apostle Paul, that are often used as proof texts for both fundamentalist "rule followers" and liberal "freedom seekers" (I use these terms loosely, for the purposes of the analogy).
But, I want to look at a new way we can approach the "rules" in Scripture, and how we can actually find the fullest life- not a more restricted one. And we are going to go to the grand-daddy of the all: The Ten Commandments (because, why not?!).
The Context of the Ten Points of Controversy
The Ten Commandments are without question, the thing from Scripture that Western society has squeezed the most controversy out of. Debate about them being displayed in schools, government buildings, and other public places keep people up at night. Some Christians have them memorized, some throw them out with the bath water.
(I think the only thing we can agree on is that it's like, the best movie...ever...)
From a religious interpretation standpoint, this list of ten simply being "rules" doesn't really capture the complete essence of what is actually going on.
To make a 3hr 40min movie short, the nation of Israel (God's people) was enslaved to Egypt, for a really long time (like, generations). God sends Moses to make Pharaoh "let the people go." Pharaoh eventually does.
THEN God gives them the Ten Commandments. And here are two responses we can take:
1) "Man, they just got their freedom, and God is already giving them rules!" (this is the response that still rings out in Christian circles today)
2) God was showing a people who [literally] only knew what life was as a slave, the best way to live now that they were free.
"They are there to help!"
I had a friend who was known for being a "rule follower," and eventually, "a rule enforcer." They constantly received light-hearted flack for this, but in spite of the joking and poking, they would say unashamedly, "Rules are important- they are there to help!"
Parents of teenagers deal with this all the time. The creators of a child talk about curfews and parties and friends and habits and whatever else because they, as their creator, know what's best for them.
So imagine if you were God. Seriously. Thousands of people now free, for the first time in their lives, and they are looking to you for what to do next. Their only example in life is what they saw in Pharaoh's kingdom and what they heard about through stories handed down for generations.
What would you say to this group? Maybe things like:
- Don't kill anyone; no good will come from that
- Don't steal anything; no good will come from that
- Don't live a life of jealously; no good will come from that
- Don't put things on pedestals that don't belong there; no good will come from that
Does that list sound like "rules that don't do anything except suck the joy out of everything," or do they sound like really really good ideas? (And I bet you could think of even more...like six more...to add to the list!).
Because here is the reality: God created you, He loves you, and knows you well enough to know what's best for you.
If you want them to, the Ten Commandments, and Jesus' reprise of the commandments (Sermon on the Mount), can be rules that are no fun and make you want to just give up the whole religion / Christianity thing.
Or, you can trust God. Trust His heart. Trust that the Creator of the universe just might know what you need to do, and not do, in order to live a life to the fullest.