Devotional — Christianity: Rules within relationship

Published 7:45 am Friday, February 9, 2024

DAVID EDMONSTON

Today I want to talk about how rules connect with relationship in Christianity. What is your view of Christianity? “Christianity is just another religion full of do’s and don’ts.” We’ve all probably heard comments like that. Is God just a cosmic killjoy who made up a list of random rules to prevent us from enjoying life? Do you believe those views? If so, you don’t have a proper understanding of Christianity or of God. 

It is true that there are many do’s and don’ts taught in Scripture. Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) The question isn’t whether the rules are there, but why are they there? God doesn’t do “random.” At the heart of God is the desire for relationship. That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to make the way for restored relationship with God. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus also said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” See that word “know”? Knowing someone is impossible outside of a personal relationship with them. Jesus isn’t just talking about head knowledge. He’s also talking about experiential knowledge, and that comes through relationship. God is personal and desires relationship with us. But what about all those rules?

I don’t have the space to explain this fully. But God’s moral laws and rules flow out of who He is. They are an extension of Him. Why is lying a sin? Because there is no deceit in God. Why is hatred and violence a sin? Because God is love and violence harms people who are made in His image. Sin is a terrible affront to God because it violates His nature and His purposes. 

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The best analogy to describe the why of God’s “rules” is to think in terms of a loving parent. The “why” of the rules flows out of His love. Understanding the “why” of the rules deepens love and relationship. Sin is very harmful to us and others and cuts us off from God eternally. Any loving parent makes rules and boundaries to protect their children and so they can live good, healthy lives both for themselves and for the benefit of others. 

Love is God’s motivation in giving His commands. Jesus came to give us abundant life and having that life is only possible in relationship and obedience. Understanding the why of God’s commands, changes the drudgery of mere rule following into loving obedience and into committed, joyful, and purpose driven obedience. 

Of course, none of us are perfect, so I’ll finish with this wonderful verse: Hebrews 4:16 –  “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

David Edmonston is the pastor of Trinity Church in Prospect. He can be reached at davidetrinitychurch@gmail.com.