Can you imagine if there were no rules to govern our shared life? No traffic lights or speed limits? No laws concerning killing, stealing, abuse or social protocol? No boundaries around showing up to work on time, meeting expectations, or how many days are appropriate to take off? These days I am also adding personal regulations, like wearing a face mask and socially distancing, to keep everyone as healthy as possible. Even the United Methodist Church is governed by a set of rules outlined in The Book of Discipline, which constitutes the laws and doctrine that legislate the policies of our church.
Most rules are given for the common good to provide order and safety in our society. At best, they are designed for the well-being of all people, not just a few. Like the commandments in the Old Testament, rules and laws are not intended to bind us up, hold us hostage, cramp our style, or squash our individuality, but rather they are intended to free us into a deeper consciousness of one another, our shared humanity, and interrelatedness.
Even so, who among us has never broken a law or two in our lifetime? Who has not gone just a little too far, said the wrong word at the most inopportune time, or just didn’t quite measure up, and—were it not for the grace of God–our lives or relationships might have turned out radically different? Truth be told, most people I know are more than willing to fudge the rules when convenient or if it works in their favor while holding others to task (often mercilessly) when it does not.
We certainly need rules, no question about that. However, it does occur to me that rules work best when tempered with grace and common sense. We “law-breakers” need a little mercy from time to time, don’t we? I know I do. As Christians, we believe that there is a higher law at work—the law of love and grace that directs our path and governs our way together. May it be so.
Grace and peace,