My personal quest to develop rules for breaking rules finds a great deal of help from my faith. As a Christian, I believe that God knows best. I don’t always agree with how God is interpreted or portrayed by some people–and to be honest, there are times when I am disagreeing with God himself. But in general, my faith is important and I try to use it as I deal with the various rules I encounter.
But even there, I am selective. Part of our Friday night tradition is a movie with either nachos or pizza–both of which need bacon to be complete. However, eating bacon in forbidden by the rules that God gave the people of Israel. Sure, that is the Old Testament and I follow Jesus who is the New Testament but God still gave the rule and I still follow some of the rules in the Old Testament–the 10 Commandments, for example, are important to me.
So, how is it that I try to avoid lying but eat bacon (not to mention lobster and scallops, which are also forbidden in the Old Testament. If the only reason I can give is my own self-interest, then I could be in trouble–maybe my desire for bacon on pizza and nachos is having a permanent affect on my relationship with God. As good as bacon is by itself or on pizza, it really isn’t worth going to hell.
Jesus provides us with some help here. In Matthew 22.40, he tells us that there are two rules that underlie all the law and prophets. These two rules are both from the Old Testament and Jesus repeats them in Matthew 22.37-39: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ (NIV)
The purpose of God’s rules was threefold. We were to use them as the basis for loving God, loving others and loving ourselves. And, just in case we want to quibble about what it means to love in this context, God has given us a great deal of commentary on these verses. One very powerful and clear commentary on how to love this way is found in I Corinthians 13.1-13. There, Paul offers powerful insights into this kind of love.
Essentially, he makes it clear that the kind of love God requires is based on our being willing to make choices that enhance relationships. In I Corinthians 13.4, we are told that this love God wants is patient and kind. Patience and kindness do not suddenly appear in our lives when we need them. Being patient and kind–or impatient and unkind–are choices we make. I can choose to be patient and kind when I get behind a slow driver or I can choose to be impatient and unkind. The other driver may never know which I am choosing–but I still have to choose to love in this way.
The rules in faith don’t exist just to exist. They exist to enhance relationships. God has given a framework to show me how to have proper relationships with him, with others and with myself. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter by exposing the foundational purpose of the rules and then God uses writers like Paul and John and others to help us see what the rules were meant to foster.
To be honest, I am not sure how avoiding bacon or scallops helped people love God, others and themselves. But I do know that these prohibitions do have a specific application in one relationship I have. My wife is allergic to shellfish so I only cook and eat scallops when she isn’t around–that is one of my expressions of love for her.
For me as a follower of Christ, rules have to be run through the filter of my faith. I need God’s leading and direction before I challenge a rule–or at least that is the theory. In practise, I still use self-interest too often and God’s leading too little. Fortunately for me, God has a rule of his own–he will never stop loving me and that means he will never stop working with me, even when it comes to which rules I break and which I keep and when.
May the peace of God be with you.