A friend recommended the other day that I read Galatians, so this morning, I did. I was quite convicted, as it deals with a long-standing issue of mine.
I love rules.
Generally, this has worked out well for me. My teachers in school trusted me to do what I was supposed to, my parents knew that if the kids around me were doing something wrong, I would stop them (or do my best to), and the authorities in my life were generally pleased with me. I loved rules so much as a kid that I would suggest new ones, as if the current ones were not enough. It wasn’t just in childhood that I liked rules, though. A few years ago, I found myself walking through life when I realized that I really, honestly enjoyed following rules.
Now, lest you think that I now hate rules, I think rules are helpful in providing boundaries. Life without guidelines and absolute truth would be chaotic and unsafe. However, the reason I liked rules was most often because they helped me to make the people around me happy with me. What I loved was not the rules, but pleasing people.
Paul, as he writes in Galatians, does not write favorably of either loving rules or following rules to please people. In fact, he calls that slavery, and calls us to be children of God. We are called to live and walk by the Spirit of God, having crucified our flesh (6:24-25), being led by the Spirit and not being under the Law (6:18).
The tricky thing for me is that making rules is still natural for me. Now, I make them for myself instead of for other people. When God corrects me in something, I want to make a rule about it; He wants me to walk, live, and be led by His Spirit. I want it to be a formula that will ensure perfection; He wants it to be a process that will ensure growth in relationship with Himself.
So the learning continues…and always will…and really, I am glad (most of the time). God is so gracious in teaching and stretching me that I have no reason to fear or worry. I do need reminding sometimes, though.
Edit: I realize that I have generalized Paul’s use of the Law, a specific thing, to rules in general. This is because I am tempted to operate like the Pharisees (or even Peter) in making rules to avoid the whole relational process of a relationship with God. This is how I was convicted and challenged by Galatians, but please don’t take it as THE application of this principle. Read it for yourself, and let me know what you find.
Also, I still value and trust the opinions and advice of the amazingly-wise people God has put in my life. I just want to do the right thing for the right reason. I’ve also learned that following the rules just because you should doesn’t necessarily make people happy with you anyway. 🙂