Rules and Desires

Mark 12:29-31

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, And you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This year I followed some rules that I never thought even would exist.

Just saying that makes us wince. Inherently we don’t like the sound of the word. Rules. Subconsciously most of us know there are rules in life.

With tongue in cheek I’ll remind us we even rename them so we don’t have to follow ‘rules.’ We say we are creating a culture when what we are doing is creating a set of flexible rules and callings them a community.  Guidelines, directives, commandments, suggestions are all flexible rules. Putting gentle fun-making at ourselves aside, let’s explore.

I had a gentle, kind piano teacher who would go across the room to listen to my arrangements, then after telling me what she liked she would say “Would you consider doing this instead of this?” Her demonstration was her teaching me the rules of arranging. I listened and learned the rules based on what the human ear expects to hear, what satisfies the human ear, how much to challenge that satisfaction, and how much discord and unexpected jarring listeners in a worship setting can be expected to accept.

I accepted those rules (and after you know them you can sometimes break them) because I really wanted to grow musically, not that I was paying half a week’s salary for lessons. (I was just out of college and was not making much money.)

We love our freedom, having our own style, and nobody telling us what to do. But even freedom has rules. If we don’t follow those rules, we get freedom taken away from us. Threatening others, taking what does not belong to us, hurting others, walking all over another person’s rights are but a few things that are against the rules of freedom. Even anarchists must accept a set of ideals. Jazz, one of music’s ‘rebellions,’ has always had rules. Criminal gangs have rules. Each academic subject has a set of rules. Professions have rules. Even retirement has rules.

We could go on for a while, but the point is, even if we don’t call our system of conduct rules, if they govern our way of life, they are rules.

Now, all that aside, let’s return to why I listened to my piano teacher.     

When the time came, I really wanted to return to the sanctuary for worship. With what my husband and I have been through with this virus, (four days in the hospital for him) how could we not want to be in the house of God to celebrate with His people who took such good care of us? So, I washed my hands, donned my mask, allowed my temperature to be taken, cleaned my hands again, was led to a specific place to sit and stayed put. I did not sing out loud and remained seated until I was summoned by the usher. Rules I never dreamed would exist.

If, in my heart, I desire something enough, I will be willing to follow the rules of engagement (so to speak).

Each of us can probably write our own devotion at this point. And each one would be different.

But for me, when I have come to the place where I desire a living, growing relationship with God, I will consent to follow the rule of love. I will model Jesus’ way of expressing God’s love.  I will practice putting others first until it becomes my life’s habit. I will consciously find ways to become someone who encourages the people I meet face to face – or mask to mask in these days.

Answer the question for yourself. What do I desire in life enough to follow the rules that govern that activity or way of living? More importantly, what am I willing to change to follow God’s rules of love? Do I desire a vibrant relationship with God enough to put aside my natural rebellion toward rules and follow some simple but life changing directives?

How much desire is in my heart to find ways to live out God’s rules of Love?

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