Solitary Bird (solitarybird) wrote,
Solitary Bird

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The danger of rules

Composing my Rule of Life for my application to the Diocese has set me to thinking a lot about rules in general.

I know that for many people Christian faith is about rules. They see the Bible as "a blueprint for life" which seems to mean that it is something of a rule book with directions for right living: do this, don't do that.

I certainly will not criticize any Christian who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. Jesus emphasized that they are blessed. May God grant us all the courage to take responsibility for our behavior and become the best people we can be.

However sometimes I think there may be an inherent danger in focusing too much of one's attention on following rules. Leave aside, for the moment, the constant undercurrent of guilt and anxiety about making an error, and the effect it seems to have on interpersonal relationships when people focus that anxiety on others. More seriously, if you are not careful, you could begin to believe that your behavior has the power to influence God's opinion of you. In that way of thinking, if you follow the rules, you'll be right with God; if you don't follow the rules, you'll end up in Hell. You may believe that you have the power to make the Holy One not love you; or even that you can control your own salvation.

Grace doesn't work that way.

I am finding that many people I talk to misunderstand the purpose of a Rule of Life. We're not talking rules as in rule books. It is a Rule in the sense of a ruler: a way of measuring. It articulates, not so much what I promise to do, but my understanding of what God is doing in me. These are not the things I must do to be saved and to earn the love of God. These are the results: the evidence of my love affair with the Holy One.

By tradition, a Rule of Life contains vows, and that is, I think, the source of the confusion. I wish I could change that, but if I wish to travel the more traditional path within the Church, I think I'll have to accept that traditional formulary.
Tags: reflections, rule of life

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