Rules make promises they can’t keep.

A rule promises if you keep it, you won’t get in trouble.  But my brother Steve would break something, then blame me.  It wasn’t fair!  I kept the rules, but then I got punished.   You’ve experienced the same thing.  Something went wrong at work.  You got blamed even though it wasn’t your project.  Life isn’t fair.

A rule promises if you follow it, you will be successful.  The guy who breaks the rules in the company seems to be achieving amazing numbers.  He gets the promotion.  You get passed over because you did your work with integrity.

A rule promises it will apply to every situation. Do you remember learning the rule “’i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c.’”   What about the word “weird?”  Or “beige?”  Or “caffeine?”  Or “their?” Or “weight?”  Apparently, there are exceptions to rules.

A rule promises to make you somebody.   We were told to keep the rules and we would be good little boys and girls.  That worked until the teacher walked out of the room.  Our character transformation fell short as soon as the door closed.  Rules alone didn’t make us good.

A rule promises to keep you from running off the road.  We all know this doesn’t work.  Ever touched something even though the sign next to it said “wet paint?”  You  can know the rules and still decide to plow through boundaries.

Rules make promises they can’t keep.

Why, then, make rules?  People make rules because it helps them feel in control.  Rules make us feel like we can hold people accountable.  “Don’t you know the rules?” we ask.

We generally make rules we can keep.  Alcohol has never really been an issue of me.  It’s easy for me to make rules about it: “Not in my house.”  Anything sweet, however…  So naturally I fight and resist every rule about sweet things.

Rules can even set a trap.  Before we know it, rule piles onto rule and we feel like we can never keep them all.  We come to believe we are failures.  We either sink into depression or lash out in anger.

Should we just do away with the rules?  No. They are necessary.  They just can’t deliver what they seem to promise.

That’s why Jesus did not come to give us more rules.  He came to offer relationship.  Jesus knew that more rules would not be the answer.  Rules never provide the power needed to change our souls.

This is why Jesus gave us himself.  He said, “Follow me.”  The meaning gets pretty clear: stick close to Jesus and the rules will take care of themselves.

Relationship before rules.  Simple.  And also one of the greatest challenges of life.

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