Whether they recognize it or not, most people have an intuitive need to learn the rules. Whether it’s a game, or a new pursuit or interest, or the nuances of a tax form, we seem to naturally realize that some rules are at play and that learning them, and following them, are important.
In fact, it’s pretty well known that kids do better when the rules of the home, or of the classroom, are clearly set forth and enforced. I reflected on this today while thinking about the upcoming World Series. Most of the rules of the game make sense, once the framework of the game is understood. But many are simply arbitrary. Its three strikes that will get a batter out, not two or four. When the third strike is dropped by the catcher, the batter still has a chance to get to first in some, though not all, leagues. In short, to play effectively, the team must know the particular rules that apply and recognize that they – the members of the team – don’t get to alter the rules.
Nor can they decide whether their performance is “good.” Looking at what the ump calls a third strike will still make you “out” regardless of whether you believe it was a strike or not; the ump gets to make the call. It struck me as odd, then, to realize that this sense of the need to learn and follow “the rules” doesn’t seem to take hold today for the game of “life”, even among those who call themselves Christian. Many, perhaps most, don’t believe in a last Day of Judgment at which, as Jesus said, the wheat would be separated from the chaff. They seem to think that everyone eventually ends up in heaven, because a loving God will see that they are basically “good” and accept them.
But isn’t “good” a standard of performance, like judging whether a pitch is a ball or a strike? And how is one to know if he or she is “good” at all, let alone sufficiently “good” to meet the standard of an infinite and perfect rule-maker? After all, there is no scoreboard to check as we go. Why then is there so little concern, let alone fear, that the rule-maker and ump may take a different view of our performance here on Earth than we do? Why do so many assume that, as to this most important “game” we call life, there are no rules and we are free to do what we like, as long as we don’t “hurt” anyone?
Could it be that this affinity for learning and using the rules was in fact left behind in us by God, as a marker calling us back to right relationship with Him? Maybe this sense we have is there to remind us, repeatedly, that there is an ultimate set of rules to which we must, in the end, submit our will if we are to one day be made perfect. His rules are simple: there is only one ultimate Creator, one Sovereign, and that’s Him. That may sound petty to some, but that’s because they don’t fully grasp that awe and adoration are simply what a perfect being merits. The second rule is to love God and to love your neighbor, fully, completely, unselfishly. For without love, freely given and freely received, there is no basis for eternal fellowship with Him.
Of course, giving flesh to these rules requires a bit more thought and reflection, and trying to follow them without also putting your trust in Jesus won’t “earn” you anything. But thinking that there is no rule-maker, or that we can make up our rules as we go, isn’t a very smart way to approach the game.
Posted by Al Serrato