Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rules For ...

In my Bible I have a section in Colossians 3 that some editors thought it would be good to title "Rules For Christians Households". I have a problem with that. I have a problem with anything we title as "rules" in the Bible. Perhaps "rules" in the sense of being compelled by love. "If it is really love then this is what results" is how we could phrase it. There are things that are born out of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Paul is not giving us a set of rules here but is telling us the natural results of love. When we are possessed by the love of Jesus we are compelled to live in this. When we are possessed by his love we can't bring ourselves to hate our enemy. We can't yell at our spouse or children. We can't harbour resentment or hurt feelings. Our natural reaction is to forgive. It is not something we work at; it is something we are.

It annoys me when people try to get others to conform to "rules" they have picked out of the Bible. Jesus said if we love him we will obey him. He didn't just say obey me. God said that we needed to love him with our entire being. Love is what comes first, followed by a desire to obey, because obedience is born out of love. If you don't love Jesus then you are just going to be another religious nut trying to conform people to a set of rules.

Under that title in Colossians 3 we find these instructions:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)

People do treat this as a set of rules. They say "The Bible commands us to love our wives" but if that is how we see it we will never manage it. Love cannot be dictated. Instead, be possessed by Jesus and you will be compelled by that love to love others. In this way wives will respect and love their husbands. Husbands will love their wives and never abuse them. Children will obey their parents, not out of fear but out of love and respect. Fathers will be consistent in their application of love to their children and thus never embitter or discourage them. Not because of a set of rules but because they are compelled by love.

People only struggle in their walk with Jesus because they haven't learned to be possessed by his love. They are treating Jesus like Gandhi, with a set of rules and good sayings to hang on the wall, publish on the internet and they honestly try to follow them. When we are possessed by the love of Jesus the Word will be written on our heart, becoming part of us and we naturally live it in love. There is a difference between conformity and transformation. The love of Jesus does not conform but transforms.

No comments: