Maybe it’s my Irish heritage, but I suspect it is a result of my Adamic heritage, but I hate rules. I always have. As a child when people told me not to do something it only gave me ideas of things I might do. A “wet paint” sign is an invitation to touch. It is my nature! I have battled this nature, with varying degrees of success, for my whole life. The ‘religious world’ with its long list of don’t has often challenged my rebellious nature. The more that I struggle to submit to the long list of spoken and unspoken rules of religious evangelicalism the more my rebellious nature surfaces. It is a losing battle. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thank God, Jesus does!
He came into a world and culture full of all sorts of “don’t” rules. He came not to avoid all the don’t rules but to positively fulfill the dos. He gives us the insight that guides his life and ministry “Love God and love your neighbour.” If we like him follow these positive dos then we need never worry about the don’ts.
Our little Street Hope community gathered for our monthly service of discipleship “Purposeful”. The idea is that during this worship time we concentrate on our personal and communal growth toward Christ-likeness. The theme this night was “Love God and then do whatever the heck you want!” This is freedom that is ours. We have the opportunity to choose God freely positively (actively) loving God and our neighbour. After this we are free to follow our hearts.
We are often tempted to make and post rules. Someone takes more than their share of sausages at breakfast. Someone suggests we make a rule “You can only have 4 sausages”. Someone reaches into the bowl of popcorn with dirty hands “let’s make a rule that you must use the scoop.” Soon the list of rules could grow and fill a wall. We would invite grudging obedience or open rebellion. We would soon create a community in bondage. This would be in some ways the easiest way forward, but would it be the best or the ‘gospel’ way?
Instead we can encourage grace toward those who take more sausages. No one has left hungry yet! We have the conversation with our friends inviting them to serve others. We resist rules! We choose rather to positively love. This is true freedom. The price of this kind of freedom is an ever present vigilance. Our culture devolves naturally to rules. This is the default system of the flesh. This kind of vigilance then does not come easily to us. We need God’s help. We need the help of our community.
Sometimes someone in our community will take me aside, “You know so-and-so is taking advantage of you?” I say “No he isn’t” and I think to myself “…though he thinks he is.” No one can abuse grace. By its nature it is undeserved! The God who has saved me from the rules and their consequences lavishes this grace on me. He says “do likewise” and after that “Do what you want”.