In this day and age, and in our culture, why—oh, why?!?!—would anyone choose to order their life around someone else’s rules?
But that’s exactly what we Christians do. We’ve got a collection of poems, letters, stories, and historical records (the Bible) that is a couple thousand years old. And we try to live according to the principles and teachings we find there.
Personally, I can name seven reasons, right off the top of my head.
1. It works. I’ve been trying to live according to what I read in the Bible for over 20 years. And it’s gone really well. God has led me around the world on a series of purposeful adventures for the good of others. My marriage and parenting are working. I’m growing in good ways. And I’m happy. (Yes, there are counterexamples, I know. And it doesn’t mean life is perfect by any stretch. My own life includes getting malaria in Nicaragua and some very frustrating experiences in China. I’ve lost friends and had to be far from loved ones in the process too. But that doesn’t invalidate the overall trajectory.)
2. It’s actually for my best. Because I love my kids, I have some rules for them. They do the dishes regularly. They complete their homework. They don’t hit each other (at least, not much). They say “thank you” when something is handed to them. With these rules, their character is being formed in important ways. They’re learning to be kind and polite and helpful. In the same way, I’m formed in beautiful (though often hard) ways when I read the Bible and try to live out commands to care for the poor, to bring good news to others, and to even love my enemies.
3. It orders my life. We swirl in the maelstrom of modern life. There is too much information, too many relationships, too many options. Living according to the way of Jesus substantially decreases stress for me because it decreases decisions. Many of my decisions are already made in advance. Should I tell this lie? Should I stop worrying about this situation that’s out of my control? Should I ogle this woman who is not my wife? Should I take care of my body? Should I yell at my kids? Should I look people who are begging in the eye and stop to talk? Should I steal this pen? A lot of stuff is already decided, so my head is clearer for what remains—no small feat in this day and age.
4. It brings peace and joy. As my life is more ordered, I gain peace. I know what my responsibilities are, at least in broad strokes. I know what I do, and perhaps just as importantly today, I know what I don’t do. I know what is enough. I know that I am cared for, just as my kids are loved by me . . . but better.
5. It re-forms me. I think one of the chief causes of ongoing pain in our lives is our confounding aversion to personal change, to giving up aspects of ourselves and our preferences. But in living by God’s “rules,” I know that I am under an authority, that I fall short of perfection, and that I must change, continually, to be closer to the person that God has made me to be. Or to put that last one more precisely, I know that I must be changed, continually, and that this brings that peace and joy I just mentioned. The technical name for this is sanctification, and while it’s not always pleasant, it’s certainly preferred to continually wallowing in the same problems I bring upon myself or changing without real direction.
6. There are other great people doing the same thing. The community of the Church is substantial and inspiring. Let me be clear—there are very real and severe evils done by people in the name of Christ and/or the Church, and these go against who God is and grieve him deeply. But reading church history—and world history—reveals that the Church is responsible for tons of schools, hospitals, and social advances. We don’t hear (or tell) that story very often or even very well. And more stories are being written every day in communities around the world—stories of Christians who are self-sacrificing and heroic as they follow in the footsteps of Jesus, himself a self-sacrificed hero.
7. It comes from the greatest being in the universe. The Creator, in fact. Which is why it works and is for my best, and why it orders my life and brings me peace. I am being re-formed. As a result, I am much more loving to others, and am bringing more good out of my little life, by God’s direction and grace. And ultimately, he is seen and known a little bit more by me and by others when I do so.
Why do you, personally, actually follow God’s rules in your daily life? How are your reasons different from mine?
Image by twentyonehundred productions team members Matt Kirk and Laura Li-Barbour.