I’m not a big fan of speed limits.
No matter what the given limit is, I constantly find myself breaking it to the point of being just one MPH shy of getting pulled over.
True be told, it’s not just speed limits. I’m forever treating rules this way, pushing myself right up to the edge of not getting busted.
Now I doubt I’m the only one in this boat. There just seems to be something in our nature as humans that makes us just barely want to follow any rule we feel is being forced on us, even if that rule is for our own benefit.
Speaking of boats, there’s this pirate ship you can climb on and jump off in the main pool at Emerald Pointe water park in Greensboro, N.C. On that ship there is a line declaring the highest point from which anyone is allowed to jump. There’s plenty of other areas around the ship you can jump from, but spend all of about 30 seconds near that pool, you’ll quickly realize kids are lining up to jump from the spot closest to that line.
I think that’s how a lot of us treat rules when we feel forced to follow them. We attempt to get just close enough to the fire without getting burnt.
Perhaps this is why Jesus, and later Paul, warned so strongly against legalism or turning Christianity into a list of rules.
Paul told the Colossians that a list of rules might seem wise and would require a level of devotion to follow, but really wouldn’t help conquer our own evil desires.
That’s definitely true with me and those rules at the pool. Honestly, if those lifeguards took the day off, there’s no chance I’m not jumping from the highest point of that ship.
And the same goes for speed limits. If I had no fear of getting caught, or my Ford Focus exploding, I’d be rolling like the Dukes of Hazzard everywhere I went.
Of course, I don’t treat all rules this way and you probably don’t either. There are some which I will go completely out of my way to ensure that I’m following.
I mean, have you ever baked a cake? And not like a regular ‘I’m going to eat on this all day Sunday’ cake. Like a special cake, for someone who means a lot to you?
If so, you know there certainly are plenty of rules for the baking process. But you know, I don’t look at those the same way I look at speed limits or pool rules. I don’t attempt to skim my way under the radar, but instead I go out of my way to make sure I follow them preciously.
It’s not just with cakes either, I’ve often done the same thing when it comes to completing a task for someone I care about. Whether it was mowing a yard, painting a room, or simply helping to put together toys at Christmas, I’m most often careful to follow the rules or guidelines and do things exactly the way instructed.
But that’s what happens when a person is motivated by love, rather than obligation. Suddenly it’s not about simply dotting the Is and crossing the Ts, it’s about creating something the person you care about will be happy with.
And you know what, there’s a real joy that comes with following rules in those situations. There’s a real joy that comes with doing those things the correct way for a person you love.
It’s really easy for us to turn our religion into a list of rules, some dos and don’ts and a whole lot of lines for us to toe.
There’s no joy in that though, just a lot of looking over your shoulder and frustration from unfulfilled desires.
So maybe we should focus less on following the rules and more on following the instructions to create something in ourselves that’s pleasing to God.
Maybe that’s the key to finding joy in obedience.