What Helps a Person Keep the Rules

I had a fascinating conversation recently that I want to unpack here. I see the same tendencies in myself that I saw thrust into the conversation, so I want to process in an open forum for the purpose of perhaps stimulating your own thinking on how we communicate about God.

The conversation was with a group of teachers from a Christian school wrestling with the concern that the “Christian” kids seemed to hold the same moral standards as the “unchristian” kids. This was very concerning for these teachers. At the center of the conversation was this question: How do we help these kids see how important it is to live righteously?

All kinds of ideas were tossed out. We talked about parents and their role, and we talked about mentors and coaches, as well. We talked about consequences and the reality that it feels like kids don’t care about consequences because they don’t feel real. I believe all of these facets play a role in shaping a young child’s moral compass, but I want to throw out a couple of ideas that I believe are critical to our understanding not only of the rules given, but why we would care about upholding them.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that this is not a new conversation in the world of Jesus followers. Paul addresses this in Romans. Even Socrates, roughly 400 years before Jesus, said, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” It sounds like the world Socrates lived in was not so different from ours. And yet the world is still here. That gives me hope.

Exodus 19:5–6 English Standard Version (ESV)

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

1 Peter 2:9 ESV

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We are called to be a kingdom of priests. This is who we are. The priests perform four major functions in a society, the primary one being to represent their God to the people. They become living examples of what God is like. In other words, our sacred task as Jesus followers is to put our God on display to the world. The guidelines God gives us to live by are there to help us do that well.

We love because God is love. We tell the truth because God is truth. We are loyal because God is loyal. We are generous, compassionate, humble, generous, and kind because our God is just like that.

Conversely, we don’t lie, steal, murder, or covet because God is not like that at all. This foundation is very important to understanding why we “keep the rules.”

Our desire to walk the righteous path is rooted in our understanding of two very important things: what we believe about the nature of God, and what we believe about the nature of man. And that changes everything.

This leads me to my second thought about this conversation. Mankind is far more than we give it credit for. Is man “incapable” of doing anything good, or just unmotivated? The hard part for many is that as we look around the world, the people who are doing kind things for them are not “Christian.” They are just good people doing kind things.

We can wrestle all day long with how to reconcile that, but at the end of the day, consistently walking the path is birthed in part by the conviction that we were created for more than the world is telling us to chase.

When God gives a rule, He gives it for our good. He gives us rules so we can learn who He is and what He is really like. We are created for that very purpose regardless of what the world invites us to chase after.

God is good and He is for people. As His followers, we must be willing to represent Him as He is. It is not our responsibility to point out when others fall short of His glorious standards.

I wonder if the average person on the average street would define the Church as a group of people who represent their God well. Or would they define the Church in other ways?

May you be a person who represents God well. May you see how amazing God truly is and how much He is for you. May you see that you were created by a God who loves you and sees your potential more than He sees your mistakes. And may you, by your very life, take that message to the world.