I am the oldest child in my family of origin, and so it probably won’t surprise you that I am a rule follower. I obey signs, read everything before I sign it and follow traffic laws (Well, I speed, but only to keep up with traffic. You know.). I’m polite and teach my children to be so, and I say thank you a lot. I try to follow society’s rules so the people around me will be more comfortable.
Then I married a youngest child. Signs? Those are merely suggestions for the weak. Rules? Made to be broken! Make people around me comfortable? Nope, the world needs to be shaped to make me comfortable! (Robby, feel free to add your two cents in the comments. This is a completely biased account of things, as I know very well.)
I had never questioned my rule-following and conformity to society. Robby had never considered fitting into a mold someone else made for him. It made for a fun marriage there in the beginning.
We have reached an understanding in the last 13½ years. He knows if there’s a sign, I will obey it, for the sake of the sign makers or the people around us. I know that he will change his environment to suit his needs, or the needs of the people he’s with. It works, for the most part.
I found myself wondering lately how much God cares about rules. I’m not talking about laws or the Ten Commandments. I mean the often unspoken rules we make as a culture or a society. Jesus certainly offended many by not following some societal rules. He hung out with the sinners, did stuff on the Sabbath, touched lepers… How many of our “Christian” standards are really cultural? Some examples:
- Dressing up for church
- Being on time
- Not using curse words
- Attending church on Sundays (as opposed to other days)
- Maintaining a “healthy weight”
- Having a retirement account
- Not drinking, smoking or dancing
And I’m sure there are many more I can’t see because I am American. (Please add to the list in the comments if you can think of some.) I’m not saying that we should throw out the rules (Please see paragraph 1!), because they do help society to run smoothly. I AM saying that we shouldn’t label someone as unChristian because they break one of these rules.
I once had a coworker do exactly that. I was often late to work in the mornings (I TRIED!! I really did. I am just not a morning person. And I knew it caused resentment in my coworkers, so I tried so hard.) and she told me it was unChristian behavior. She actually said that. But if we had been in Guatemala, it would have never bothered her. Or if it had, she would have seen it as a personal irritation, and not my failing as Christian.
But I have suffered from that same mentality. Usually in looking at myself. I used to ask God: “What do you want from me?” and I found lots of answers in the Bible. I’m sure you have several running around in your head right now. But none of them satisfied me, because I was really asking: “What do you want me to do to please you? How can I be a ‘Good Christian?'” And the best answer to that question is: “You don’t need to do anything. Jesus already did it all for you.”
There are no “Good Christians.” There are only rule-breakers in need of grace, or rule-followers in need of grace. And once we receive it, we are free from the rules that keep us from giving ourselves completely to Him. When we mess up, it doesn’t set us back in our relationship with Him because we know our status with Him doesn’t depend on our ability to be “good.” When we fail to meet expectations (ours or someone else’s), we don’t have to collapse under the weight of failure, because that’s not how He evaluates us. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus, the One who lived the perfect life we can NEVER achieve and died the sinless death that satisfied His wrath.
I needed to hear that today! What about you?