Why Do We Have Rules?

Why Do We Have Rules?

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17

Growing up, I was a people pleaser, which for me, meant being a rule follower. Rule followers follow the rules, just for the sake of those rules. Looking back then, if I’m honest, I wasn’t necessarily trying to do what was right, so much as simply obeying my predisposition to please others.

I may still have some of that childhood need for affirmation in me, but as I’ve grown and become more comfortable with doing what I want, the need to follow the rules, just for rule’s sake, has faded. Why follow the rules? I’m forgiven, so I’ll just live however I want. Forget trying to please others. I live for me.

In today’s passage, Jesus addresses both those who wish to abandon all rules and those who follow the rules, just for rule’s sake. To those rebels who wish to abandon all rules, he insists that grace doesn’t mean that the rules are gone. On the contrary, Jesus insists that it isn’t enough just to avoid murder and adultery. Following him means that we go one step further, abandoning our anger and lustful thoughts as well.

To the rule followers, Jesus insists that just following the letter of the law isn’t enough. The purpose of the law isn’t just to see if we’ll follow a bunch of rules. Christ gets to the heart of the matter, insisting that we aren’t simply to follow rules, but that we must follow him – abandoning hate and lust – if we truly want to know God.

This really, is the reason for the rules in the first place – to point us to God. When I’m living for me or for people pleasing, I cannot also follow God. While enslaved to my addiction or affirmation, I cannot simultaneously be filled with God’s life and Spirit. Following the heart of the rules then – loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40) – is the only way I can know faith, true life, and recovery.

We don’t need to follow the rules just for rules sake, but that doesn’t mean that the rules are gone. Daily, we must do what it takes to abandon our path for God’s. This means following the heart of his rules – Jesus Christ.

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