PrisonYesterday I wrote about how easily and subconsciously we make rules and draw lines that set us against others and define who is “in” and who is “out”. And I pointed out that the only people with whom Jesus seemed to regularly take issue were the uber-religious types who saw themselves as ticking all the right boxes while consistently ruling others out of God’s favour.

It seems to me that Jesus was all about freedom. This was and is in stark contrast to our deep-seated propensity to make rules for everything, whether implicitly or explicitly. In fact, I think there’s a case for saying that it’s our very rule-making and associated score-keeping that makes us bound up and not free in the first place.

Of course, I’m not saying there’s no place for rules in the Christian life (or in human life in general). The pages of scripture contain plenty of rules, orders and commandments. But where we go wrong is in making all those rules into definitions of who’s in and who’s out.

I would say that, where God does give us rules, he does so mainly for our benefit and protection – in much the same way that we set rules for our children. When we tell our children they must stay away from the road, it’s not because we have a problem with the moral wrongness of their going near it; it’s because we don’t want them to get run over. Similarly, God wants us to thrive and flourish as individuals and communities, so he gives us rules designed to help us do just that.

Our mistake is that we tend to make these rules, given by God for our own benefit, into religious weapons. We turn “If you want to thrive and flourish, do this” into “If you don’t do this, you offend God and are condemned to eternal separation from him”. I think we do this because of our inherent tendency to find security and belonging by excluding and separating.

The Apostle Paul tells us that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Not a remnant or a few, but the world. In other words, he was erasing whatever lines of separation existed between God and man.

Which means, I would suggest, that whatever lines of separation still exist are there because we have drawn them, not God.

[ Image: Rob ]