When My Faith Becomes Merely Rules

by Cia Mathew

The most compelling part of Christianity for me is its unwarranted grace. Meaning – there is nothing we can do and nothing we cannot do to change how much God loves us. Whether I had a one-night stand the night before church or whether I have practiced abstinence my whole life – the God of the Bible loves me the same.

If you see Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts, you’ve got it wrong. This is because, at the heart of Christianity, it doesn’t matter what I do. Christianity isn’t about following a rulebook. It isn’t about not having sex, not drinking, not lying, not gossiping, not stealing, not anything. It’s not about me being a good girl; it doesn’t matter how good I am or how bad I am. If my religion were only about me following rules, my faith would be imprisoning and stifling. I’d be guilt-ridden, constantly feeling like I’m not good enough for God.

But the Bible is a story of grace. It is a story that affirms that I will always be good enough and loved by a merciful God. It says in Romans 11:6, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Grace means that God’s love for us is not dependent on our actions – it doesn’t matter what we do right and what we do wrong. The Christian message is that Jesus’s death covered every mistake, disobedient action, and sin we committed.

So knowing what Jesus’s death did, why do Christians bother to be good, especially if everything “bad” we do has been covered by grace? The Bible even reminds us that “everything is permissible” under grace (1 Corinthians 10:23). The answer lies in the gripping nature of the gospel. Paul says this candidly in his letter to the Romans, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1). Once I understand that the God of the universe loved me enough to come down to earth and live as an innocent man who was beaten and murdered, I can’t live the same. Knowing what Jesus did for me leaves me different, transformed.

God’s love and Jesus’s grace doesn’t make rational sense, but it touches my inner being so powerfully that I want to obey every command God gives me. Every “do” and “don’t” listed in the Bible becomes a guideline I welcome. Why? Because I trust God. I trust that when He gives me a command, everything from avoiding premarital sex to being slow to anger, He is showing me how to live the most fulfilling life possible. After all, if I didn’t believe God was bigger and better than myself, I wouldn’t worship Him. God is a loving Father and a Good Shepherd, and He knows what’s best for His creation. I follow his Biblical commandments because I don’t see them as rules, but as a way of life that will bring me the most peace and joy.

So is Christianity about following rules? No. Because even if I failed to follow every rule, God still wants me to be in communion with Him. I follow the Bible’s rules because I fully trust in God’s counsel, and all I want is to do is obey Him in response to His unconditional love for me.

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