Cutting Room Floor: Rules & Consequences – In The Christian Life
Rules aren’t bad, they just aren’t good enough.
Rules are good: Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, he says–end all the rules–he came, he tells us, to fulfill them: To show people a way of life that actually fulfills the law. By fulfilling it, he models for us how to live. He’s the “image of the invisible God,” a person who has seen him has “seen the father,” the Bible says. And the father loves, and God is love.
The Ten Commandments are great! They are good! Good rules. Except that over and over on the Sermon in the Mount that we talked about just a couple of months ago, we say Jesus revisit “Don’t kill,” and telling us if we insult someone, or get angry with someone, we’re just as bad. He takes “don’t commit adultery” and turns it into “don’t check somebody out.” Jesus takes the rules, the Law, and says that his followers need to live lives that are not just outward shows of obedience, but lives that are saturated with a “right” and “good” character. He takes the rules, oriented toward outward action, and says, look, obeying rules is fine; but it’s not enough: what’s enough is to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” What’s enough, is to live like me: to become like me.
Consequences are important, but just not the most important thing
And the consequences of our actions do matter: not just personally, but they matter for the whole church. We are rarely told when we decide to join ourselves to Jesus, and receive all the benefits of salvation that go with it, that once we join with a church, our sins–the secret ones we don’t tell anyone about–that they’ll affect the family we become a part of. We aren’t told, “Hey, Rich, by the way, your joys become my joys, your sorrows become my sorrows, and when you sin, it affects me, man. We’re joined in a body, you know, and I your failures hurt me, and mine hurt you.”
And really, everything about society tells us to think about ourselves and whether we’ll experience some positive pleasure from an action, and to not think about the long term effects of anything we do. If there’s a sin our faith needs to confess, it’s short-sightedness, which we excuse because Jesus is coming back. But our goal is not to get what we can get out of life because Jesus might come back this afternoon: our call is to live until he comes back, just as he would live, no matter the situations we find ourselves in.
Our goal is not to achieve some great end result; our goal is to be like Jesus in every situation. To become like Jesus: and although that may look incredibly ineffective sometimes, it will look like faith: and when the Son of Man returns, he will find it.
It is simply a miraculous convenience that much of the time, when we live our lives like Jesus, the effects–the end results, or consequences of our actions–they look pretty good, too. Not always, but sometimes.
Sometimes someone looks just like Jesus; and they die, seemingly unproductive, and seemingly ineffective, but with the character of Christ coursing through their soul. If we can’t celebrate that, it’s because what we care about is being grand and making a splash in some small pond more than we care about the things Jesus tells us. That should give us pause for reflection.