I believe that no one likes rules, except for the people who make them, and the people who enforce them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in rules companies have regarding dress and eating. Even worse is when companies have rules, and those who enforce it try to add their own interpretation to the rules. You can read stories about the conflicts employees and managers have over those differences all over the internet. Usually the stories are written by employees who have found a way to outsmart the manager and follow the company rules to the letter of the law, while bending the spirit of the law.
I think it’s part of human nature to try and get around the rules, using whatever excuses we can. Those crazy Corinthians excelled in trying to find loopholes in the rules of their faith so that they could keep on living like they were used to. They wanted the assurance of a life with Jesus, but they didn’t want to venture into unexplored territory of caring for others. Paul had to deal with that issue again and again. “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
As we look at the dialogue between the Corinthians and Paul we see the amazing difference that there is in following Christ and in following religious rules. The Corinthians are reminding Paul, “Hey! We live under grace, not under law.” Their way of putting it was “I have the right to do anything.” Paul reminds them that not everything is beneficial, nor is everything constructive. The problem with people who look at Christianity as a list of rules and regulations that they follow is that they want to find a way around it for their own personal desires. This is why you see the Corinthian side of the dialogue beginning with the word “I.” Their attitude was “this is all about me.” Paul noted that no one person should seek what’s good for themselves, but should seek what’s good for others. This wasn’t a result of the legalism of Paul, this is the result of the truth that Christianity is not so much a religion as it is a relationship with Christ, and, by extension, those whom Jesus loves.
It would be so much easier if we had a list of rules and regulations to follow so that we could check off whether we were a good Christian or a bad Christian. Maybe we should get together a list of about fifteen rules. Follow between 12 and 15 and that makes you an awesome Christian; nine to twelve, a great Christian…. We don’t have that, though. We don’t have 613 laws based on the Torah and the Mishnah either. What we have are two rules: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Or, as Paul put it, no one should seek their own good, but the good of others. There are a lot of things I could do if I only thought about myself, and my needs. There are a lot of ways I could spend my time and my money if I took the attitude that I have the right to do anything without worrying about others. But that’s not God’s way. There are no checklists. There’s guidance from the Holy Spirit. Everyone has different needs and ways those needs should be met. The key is not following rules and regulations; the key is in maintaining a good relationship with God so that you can listen to Him when situations arise where God can use you to provide help.
O Lord, remind me every day that it’s not about me. Keep me in a good relationship with You and help me be ready to show Your love to my neighbors.