We might think that rule-following is a universally positive thing to do, but the following points unpack. 7 signs that bare rule following is a problem.
1. Rule Following Does Not Make You Unstoppable
We talk a bit at MAKE about helping people to move from being stuck in life to being unstoppable, by connecting with the spiritual power of Jesus. It might be fairly obvious, but it’s worth saying, you can be following all the rules and feel very far from unstoppable. You may not be living the true purpose that God has put in your heart. You might be having all sorts of issues with other people. You might be utterly exhausted. Though keeping all the rules, you may be very stuck and NOT very unstoppable.
2. Rule Following Does Not Help You Deal With Rule Breakers
We’re living in a chaotic and broken world where even leaders of nations cannot be trusted to ‘keep the rules’. But that just raises the question: whose rules do we follow anyway? Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche talked about human ‘will to power’. Wherever we can, we like to set the rules and become rule-makers. The great ones in the world’s eyes, are the ones who climb to the top of the pile and become the rule-makers. So do you still want to keep the rules?
3. Rule Following Brings Guilt and Shame
Most people find that following all the rules is impossible. So what do you do when you break the rules? Maybe guilty, maybe you feel pretty good, until you get caught. But then how do you feel, either guilty or even if you don’t fully agree with the rules you’re being told you’re meant to follow, you will feel shame. We live in a society with all sorts of unwritten rules, and though you may not agree with them, if you break them, you will no doubt feel shame being drawn out in you by those around. What do you do then?
4. Rule Following Does Not Help Us In Living the Kingdom Life
Last week at MAKE church, we saw from Mark 5, how the great wrestle in our hearts when we hear the words of King Jesus, is whether or not we will respond with fear or faith. And faith was the way forward. But rules can only strike fear - punishment if we break them. Whereas we saw that what the Kingdom calls for is faith.
5. Rule Following Cannot Clean Us Up From Guilt and Shame
In Mark 7, Jesus is confronted with rule following religious leaders and a critique of his disciples, based on their rules. Jesus is very clear. For one, the rules the religious leaders are using, actually cut against the Words of God. But secondly, we cannot clean up the problems in our hearts, by following a bunch of rules for how we engage with the external world.
‘Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ (Mark 7:16)
We cannot deal with the mess inside by something we do on the outside. So what do we do?
6. Rule Following Cannot Touch The Heart of the Human Problem, But Jesus Can
In Mark 7, after Jesus finishes talking with the religious leaders, he moves to non-Jewish areas, amongst the gentiles. First he is confronted with a greek women with a demon possessed daughter (Mark 5:26). Jesus speaks with her, enters her world and touches on the heart of the problem by driving the demon out fo the girl. Then Jesus is brought a deaf mute man. Interestingly he puts his fingers in the mans ears, spits (presumably on his hands and fingers) and then touches the man tongue. Speaking the words, ‘be opened’, the man is cured from the inside out. Jesus shows us that he is the one who can fix our deep problems, from the inside, out.
7. Bare Rule Following Needs to Be Replaced With Asking Jesus For Cleanness
It’s interesting in both the instance of the greek woman and the people who brought the deaf mute, the NIV translation, though different greek words are used, helpfully translates the sense by picking up that both of these desperate peoples ‘begged’ Jesus (Mark 5:26, 32). They begged him, they stretched out to him, they pleaded with him. And then Jesus responded with healing and cleansing by the power of God. That’s the thing that we need when we’re feeling stuck. We don’t need to tick the boxes, follow the rules, climb to the top of the mountain ourselves - no, we just need to beg Jesus. We just need to reach out for Jesus. We just need to reach for the hem of his garment, like the bleeding woman a few chapters earlier in Mark 5:27. Then cleansed by Jesus we will be freed and unstoppable, to do the things that Jesus wants us to do. But we need to reach out to him for cleansing. In fact, in both of these instances, it was for others that people begged. It is not be putting rules upon others that we will see change, but by begging Jesus for them. ‘Jesus forgive this person who wronged me’. ‘Jesus cast out the demon from this person who hurt me.’ ‘Jesus bring healing and cleansing to the people in my life.’ Who do you need to bring before Jesus and beg for their cleansing?
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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