Rules will always be a part of life — whether we follow them or break them, regardless of age, gender, where we live or what we do — Rules are inescapable.
When you think of rules what’s your initial reaction?
Despair? Maybe you feel like you just can’t follow rules, no matter how hard you try.
Anger? Maybe you hate the thought of someone attempting to force their rules on you.
Shame? Maybe you’ve had a history of not following the rules and your painful past is a constant reminder.
Quite often we believe that for the most part, rules restrict us. But let’s look at it a little differently for just a moment.
What if we consider that rules have a purpose for good in our lives? It seems a bit obvious but sometimes we lose sight of the reason we have rules in the first place.
Maybe rules were not meant as a punishment but were meant for our protection because without rules there would be chaos, right?
Who would want to live in a world where no one had to follow any rules, but could do and say and behave in whatever way they wanted without consequence? Imagine the lives that would be destroyed by a life without rules.
Rules can simplify and give order to our lives if we will allow them to do so, after all, they were put in place to keep order and protect us.
When we choose not to follow rules we have consequences to face — or at least we should — in order to learn to make right choices.
Maybe we believe that rules will limit us and prevent us from making our own choices but the truth is that each day we have the opportunity to make choices that will either bring blessing or burden to our lives. The only thing that limits us is choosing to go against the rules and then suffering the consequences. It makes sense then that it’s the consequences that limit us, not the rules.
When I was younger my family and I spent our summers at a lake. I had a great time building forts, playing baseball and swimming. As a preteen I was not a great swimmer so my mom’s rule was that I could only swim as far as I could touch without the water being over my head. This meant that I was not allowed to swim out to “the dock”. My sisters, cousins and friends would all swim out but I would have to stay behind. It seemed so unfair; after all, I could swim just not well. One hot summer day my sister decided to swim out and I decided to break the rule and follow her. I doggy paddled my way farther and farther from shore. Finally making it onto the dock, I jumped up and down in celebration until I looked out and saw my mom standing there on the shore with her hands on her hips. My heart sank as she motioned for me. I slowly doggy paddled my way back, fearing the consequences of disobeying the rule. Once back at home she informed me of my fate — no swimming for the rest of the summer! I could wade in the shallows with the little ones but no further than my kneecaps. It wasn’t my mom’s rule that restricted me, after all, I could swim pretty far but I wanted to go farther and decided to break the rule. The rule was there to protect me but it was the consequence of breaking the rule that limited me to the shallows not the rule itself. If I had only chosen to do the right thing…
We always have an opportunity to choose the right thing — it’s called free will.
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7 (NIV)
Did you catch that?
If we choose to do what is right, we will rule over sin. In other words, if we follow the rules, sin won’t rule us.
I think we can agree that rules were not meant to harm us but to help us — but here’s the thing — along with rules we also need GRACE.
Rules without grace set an impossible standard to follow because when we fail, and we WILL fail from time to time, without grace we’re filled with despair, anger or shame.
Recently my husband and I went to see the movie Old Fashioned. If you haven’t seen it yet I won’t spoil it for you but there was a great lesson to be learned about the importance of rules and the necessity of grace — grace for others and grace for ourselves. Yes there will always be rules and consequences but if we’re only focused on following the rules and have no grace, instead of encouraging others to make right choices, we just might push them away.
We all make mistakes, we all fall short. We all occasionally bend or even break the rules. But when we have grace for one another and ourselves we’re given an opportunity to get back up, to brush ourselves off and to try again.
So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21 (NLT)
Choosing to do things God’s way isn’t always easy but if we choose to follow Him then maybe following the rules won’t seem so hard after all…
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Ann Lamott
Lanette Haskins is a Jesus follower, wife, mom, and grammy living in West Michigan. She works as an assistant publicist for Baker Publishing Group, is a writer and blogger and has been a leader in women’s ministry. You can connect with Lanette at www.yourgracefoundme.com, on Twitter https://twitter.com/LanetteHaskins or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lanette.haskins