Posted 04 Sep 2013
Isn’t Christianity simply a set of rules you have to follow?
People who criticise the Christian faith often see it as being no more than a set of oppressive, prescriptive rules, with a strong sense of “You can’t do this”, or “You can’t do that”.
My experience is the EXACT OPPOSITE! Having been a Christian for about 30 years I would say that there are very few God-given rules. And ALL of the ones God has given us are actually for our benefit. Far from being prescriptive & oppressive, the “rules” of the Lord are ALL for our good. He is like a parent who warns a child against a danger. Of course, the child can still go & do the dangerous thing anyway, & get hurt in the process. God doesn’t want us to get hurt, but He is committed to our freedom of choice & so won’t stop us from choosing to hurt ourselves, if we are bent on doing that.
Dangers around the bend in our life choices.
In terms of understanding God’s MOTIVATION, it is not that he wants to “spoil our fun”. That is not the purpose of “all those rules”! It is simply that God knows what is good for us, & what is not, & his “rules” help us to determine which is which. All of his directives are to MAXIMISE our freedoms, not minimise them.
God’s foresight is a lot better than our own. He can “see over the hedges” & “see around the corners of our life’s “roads” much further than we can. We might think our choice(s) will send us towards something good, but often we can not see the hidden dangers of our own choices. We can not see the “potholes” in the roads of our lives. The Lord’s warnings to us are to help us; to prevent us from following a course of action that may harm us, &/or other people. The problem is, WE OFTEN CAN’T SEE that far ahead of our own choices in life; what the consequences will be. We can’t see over the “hedges”, or “round the bends” of our life’s road, so we don’t REALLY know where our choices will take us. But God does know, & He really wants us to be successful, & happy & healthy. That’s why He warns us of impending disaster, if we follow the course we are set on.
The question is: WILL WE LISTEN?
Will we trust God to lead us away from the dangerous situations we have inadvertently chosen?
The only way we will do that is if we TRUST God.
Willfulness gets us into hot water!
The problem comes when we become willful; when we INSIST on going our own way; doing our own thing, even despite God’s warnings. As Proverbs 14:12 reminds us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” The thing(s) we do; the new things we try may seem OK to us, at least initially, but sometimes they will lead us towards hurts, downfalls & real dangers which we can not (yet) see. It’s at times like that which God will try to tell us (as a loving heavenly Father) that our choices may lead to our own hurt, or the hurt of other people, through our actions & choices.
But if we choose to ignore God & do the thing anyway, then who is actually at fault? Can we blame God… No. It is our (poor, shortsighted) choice which led to our misery or injury, not God’s. We can not blame Him for our willfulness. Nor can we shout “You didn’t warn me!”… because God HAS, in the Bible. All those “oppressive, prescriptive rules” that people bang on about are there PRECISELY for one purpose: to keep us safe from harming ourselves, or anyone else for that matter.
God would be negligent if He DIDN’T warn us!
As I wrote earlier, my experience of the Lord is that he is utterly committed to me & giving me freedom to achieve & enjoy many things in life. But if I veer off course & approach something dangerous, then He can warn me. That’s God being like a parent. How can I complain about that? Wouldn’t I consider a human parent UTTERLY NEGLIGENT (and UN-loving) if he/she DIDN’T warn me of impending danger or hurt?
Why then do non-Christians consider God’s warnings (in the Bible) to be oppressive & prescriptive, when all the Lord is doing is trying to keep them safe? They are really being unkind & almost deliberately misunderstanding what the Lord’s loving nature, & His revealed wisdom (in the Bible), is really all about.
… And always let your conscience be your guide!
Real freedom, where I can be secure & safe, comes from knowing that my choices are right, both for me & for other people who my actions may influence. When I’m unsure of what to do, God is there to help me see the right thing. That knowledge is in the Bible. He also “talks” to us through our own conscience. God has set the eternal within the heart of every person, & our conscience is a vital way of letting us know what is good & what is bad, both for us personally & for other people.
1) God is for us, not against us. As Romans 8:29-30 (NLT) reminds us:
‘For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son [Jesus the Christ], so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.’
2) It’s not actually about following rules at all. The history of the Hebrew people proves that! Most of the Old Testament shows how people who try to follow rules INEVITABLY FAIL in that attempt, no mater how hard they try.
What’s the point of the Bible… what’s the message then? It’s actually God showing us that following a set of rules (no matter how good they may be) will not make us holy, or happy, for that matter!
The point of the Bible’s long Old Testament narrative is to show us that the one thing we REALLY NEED, in order to get our lives in order & “fly straight & true” is to get into relationship with the living God, Jesus the Christ.
3) God doesn’t want us to slavishly obey his rules, or else! He wants us to feel safe & secure; to recognise that He loves us; to know that we BELONG – that’s where the sense of freedom comes from.
4) If we’re “hung up” about the rules of God, then we actually missed the point of the Bible’s message.
The Bible’s message is this: God really loves you… He really, really, REALLY loves you. He really, really, really loves YOU.
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