I have always loved games. Whether it was a board game, cards, sports, or something we made up as kids, I looked forward to those games times. I am still very competitive. (No comments from my family, or the Speech and Debate crowd please).
One thing in common with all games, at least all that I know of, is that they all have a set of rules that everyone is to play by. And there are consequences for breaking those rules. The purpose of the rules is, of course, to have a level playing field. Even in made up games, there is typically a list of agreed upon rules before the game starts, and there are the ad hoc rules that are also agreed upon as the need arises.
Of course, there was always that one kid. You know, that kid who constantly argued with, or tried to change the rules, or say the rules always said that I could do this. What was worse was if that kid was the one who “brought the ball.” When push came to shove, he would announce:
“If you don’t play by my rules, I’m going to take my ball and go home!”
So, if we wanted to play, even though we now knew we would lose, we played by the altered or even the continually revised rules, at least to a point. Hey, at least we were playing, and not home cleaning our rooms. We hated that kid, but he did bring the ball, and we didn’t have one of our own. This brings me to rules in life.
I have found that in life, there are three kinds of people, those who can count, and those who can’t. No, wait. There are three kinds of people when it comes to how we view rules, four if you count the pirate code, which are really merely guidelines and not actual rules.
The first kind are those who just don’t care, and are going to break the rules and try not to get caught. They have no regard for others, and will cheat when the opportunity arises. That’s all I’ll say about these people, but will leave them with what God says, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay.”
The other two I will label as those who keep the rules, and those who look to not break the rules. Now, these two may look a lot alike, but they are worlds apart. Let me explain.
Let’s consider the rules for life given to the Hebrew people of the Old Covenant. They are called the 10 Commandments. You may have heard of them. If not, read the first five books of the Bible. That will give you the list, as well as the history of how they came about.
There were two approaches to these commands. These approaches are best exhibited by Jesus, and the Pharisees.
Jesus approached the 10 Commands with the attitude of wanting to keep the law. He saw rightly that they could be kept by loving God first, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Even though the rules sounded quite negative – “Thou Shalt not…” – they were really about how we were to love each other.
You see, if I love you, I’m not going to kill you. I’m not going to take your stuff. If I love God, I will love and worship Him only. These were in essence 10 pieces of candy all wrapped up. Yes, we see the wrappers of “Thou shalt not…” but what we are to focus on is the candy, which is Love God, and Love your Neighbor.”
But the Pharisees approached these in an entirely different way. They weren’t so interested in how to keep the law, they wanted to make sure they didn’t break the law. Their question, therefore, was “What is the limit?” Or, what can we do, how far can we go, how close can we get to the edge without crossing the line? In other words, how much can we get away with?
The law says “Thou shalt not commit adultry.” But it also allows for divorce. So, as long as we properly issue the certificates of divorce, we can have as many women as we want. You see what I mean?
Keeping the law would have them love their wives so much that they wouldn’t even think of a relationship with another, but their approach of “not breaking the law” gave them the supposed license to commit adultry by taking an advantage of a loophole they created.
This happens all over our world today. And I know that I have operated in both of these camps. We all have. Or at least we have all operated in the Pharisee camp. I know this because we are all a bunch of self-serving sinners.
My point is, we need to look at the spirit and purpose of the rules, and we should seek to keep them rather than see what we can get away with. How can we bless others through playing by the rules rather than serving ourselves seizing every opportunity to skirt the rules through technicalities?
I know that there are rules that are arbitrary and seemingly meaningless, but we can still ask why those rules were written. Many rules and laws concern the safety, health, and well-being of others. For instance, speed limit laws. The “candy” on the inside of “Thou shalt not speed” is drive safely so as to not be a danger to yourself and others.
My purpose is not to be legalistic, but reasonable. The sum of God’s Law is, Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself. If you do that, you will keep the most important rules there are.
Looking to keep the rules and laws should govern our everyday lives. And if everyone concerned themselves on how they could serve others, this would be a much better world indeed.