A blogger from Australia, who seems at least quasi-religious, wrote an article entitled, “Why I Hate Rules.” He gave three reasons. (1) Rules are for “twonks” (British slang for “a stupid person.” (2) Rules are for others (rule makers are notorious for ignoring the rules). (3) Rules don’t inspire me. Here, he cites among others Jesus’ healing on the sabbath and eating with tax-collectors and sinners.
This man, to some degree, seems a casualty of pop culture. Nobody likes rules. It is more noteworthy to find someone who does. It goes against our nature to be subjected to rules. You hear, “Rules are made to be broken.” Sometimes, those who do not say it live it.
While some may unevenly apply rules or abuse rules, like the Pharisees, priests, lawyers, and scribes too often did, to disdain and disavow rules because some misuse them is like asking for a ban on automobiles because some are reckless drivers. Certainly, there is the sense in which the Bible itself is a book containing several rules. We are not saved by rule-keeping, but that does not nullify the importance of rules in our lives. Rules serve several roles.
Rules create accountability. I am accountable to others and, most of all, to God (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5). His expectations and instructions are designed to help me see my accountability and to be accountable to Him. If I live to myself and die to myself (cf. Rom. 14:17), I can do just as I please. Gravity is a natural law, but it implies certain rules that cannot be defied and which hold us accountable. How much more is it true that the Bible contains spiritual laws that include with them accountability measured either by obedience or disobedience.
Rules foster consistency. “What’s right for me may not be right for you” only works in fairy tales and fantasies. God is an impartial judge (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; etc.). Thus, it is fair for the perfectly fair God to have all His rules apply evenly to everyone. With but two eternal destinies and two roads to get there, there needs to be objective directions given. Consistency and fairness are complementary.
Rules encourage submission. Jeremiah wrote, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (10:23). Most of us wrestle with trying to be our own boss, but rules stubbornly stand in the way of that philosophy. I am not my own man. I am God’s man. He tells me, “Submit therefore to God” (Jas. 4:7a). How do I do that apart from obedience and submission of my will to His.
The limitation of the rules rest with us. When we fail to obey the rules or obey them disingenuously, they do little if any good. It is like the old story of the girl, sternly warned by her mother to sit down, who replied, “I’m sitting on the outside but standing on the inside!” But, our consistent failure to apply these rules to our lives, while such may hurt a great many, other people, ultimately hurts us most of all. Paul said, “For neither is circumcision anything, or uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16). The new creation that we become through Christ by getting into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27) is one in which Christ lives within us (Gal. 2:20). That means He rules! When He rules over me, the rules I am under are bearable and doable. Thank God for His righteous rules!