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Not long ago I was practicing a technique of mindfulness. I was actively paying attention to what I was thinking. We have many thoughts we are not fully aware of. One day, I was driving my kids to school, a stressful drive, and I discovered that I have a lot of rules. Some of the rules are written laws, “Hey, you didn’t have the right of way!” Some of the rules are requests from the school, “Didn’t you get the e-mail telling us not to turn left there?” Many of the rules are all my own, “Take turns! Let that guy in, zipper traffic moves faster!” Honestly, my expectations for people went well beyond the written laws. They were what I would have called, “common sense.” For example, people driving within the speed limit but still too fast in that chaotic zone. My expectations for other drivers were what made my drive so stressful.
As God’s people we do this as well. God gave us a set of laws. These laws are both for our safety and to direct us to Him. Following them makes our lives better. Then we come along and add our rules to His. Some congregations have added rules to the laws God gave. However, most of the rules are created by us as individuals. It’s our sinful nature. These are unspoken expectations on how everyone should live, dress, and behave. What we would call, “common sense.” These rules, not God’s laws, are what often create conflict within the church.
When the Pharisees and scribes did this Jesus stated,
“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Matthew 15: 7-9 English Standard Version
Jesus did not take these added rules lightly and neither should we. God cares about the condition of our hearts. He knows we cannot keep the law, which is what guides us to Him. Let’s not make it harder for one another. God’s laws are enough; we don’t need to add our expectations to them.
Text and Photo Copyright Richelle Hecker