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Rules - Monday Musing, May 10, 2021

Dear Church,

Rules. Explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity. In his song, “Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw sings: Go to church 'cause your mamma says to / Visit grandpa every chance that you can / … Hold the door, say "please", say "thank you" / Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie … – are these rules or simply suggestions?

As a former police officer, I did my best to enforce rules uniformly and fairly. But sometimes it made sense to not be so rigid, to give a little grace to someone who needed it and exercise a certain amount of (lawful) discretion. (That said, I will confess to being slightly annoyed when people do not adhere to the rules of the Cape Cod Rail Trail!).

Do you consider yourself a rule-follower, a rule-bender, or a rule-breaker? Is there only a duality when it comes to rules: Yes/No, Right/Wrong, Good/Bad? Lawful/Unlawful? Are rules always one way or another? Isn’t there ever any room for gray? Is life simpler if we just follow the rules and do as we are told?

Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Since commandment is defined as a divine rule, then it’s hard to find shades of gray. How would life be different if we simply followed the rule to love one another? Hallmark cards are nice, but can we show love for everyone, extend selfless love to all people?

Eugene Peterson has Jesus saying it this way in The Message: “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.” (15:9-10)

Emily Heath writes, “(T)he author of the Second Letter of John reminds us that the best way to walk in the faith (or ride, or lift, or whatever you do) is to keep on walking. For John this means to keep on keeping the commandment to love one another, day after day, and mile after mile. The more we do it, the more effortlessly we will be able to keep doing it. We become conditioned to love by just keeping on loving.”

Rules, commandments, oh my! Make yourself at home in the love of the One we follow and share that love abundantly. See you in church!




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