1. Years ago a book came out that created quite a stir.
a. It was called The Rules and purported to provide a set of rules that,
1. If followed were a sure fire way to land that husband.
b. The Rules was read by men and women, but especially women, all over the country.
1. Those who followed the rules swore by them; saying by following the rules you could find the man of your dreams
c. However, whenever I think about the book “The rules” I think about a a guy I went to college with, let’s call him Jim.
1. Although the Rules hadn’t even been written yet, he would have definitely had an opinion about. He would have hated them.
2. For Jim was what you might kindly call a “ladies man”
1. he dated as many women at a time as possible
2. and was not interested in commitments, relationships and especially marriage.
3. For him marriage, with all its responsibilities, obligations and expectations were just so many rules,
a. and those rules would take away his freedom.
4. So long after most of us were moving on to other things; to careers, to marriage, to ministry,
5. he was still living the high life,
6. the free life
7. the life without rules.
2. And really, don’t we envy him?
a. For Jim’s experience of the rules is not one limited to dating.
a. We send most of our life following other people’s rules.
1. As children we follow our parents’ rules
2. As young adults we follow the rules at school.
3. We yearn to grow up so that we will be free of other people’s rules,
1. only to discover that careers, relationships, the church,
2. even life itself all have rules.
b. IT is little wonder then that my friend Jim chafed
0. when told he should he settle down and follow the rules.
c. It is little wonder then that we chafe
0. when we hear that relationship have rules
d. For rules take away our freedom.
3. There is one relationship, however, where the rules chafe the most; and that is our relationship with God.
a. We think, With God we should be free to be any way we want to be
1. For God loves us just the way we are.
2. Sure the Church may be filled with Rules which cramp our freedom, but not God.
a. God is freedom.
2. Surely the disciples must have realized that; for when Jesus spoke,
3. he spoke of nothing but freedom;
a. He forgave people their sins,
1. rather than punishing them as the rules would have demanded
b. He prepared food and ate on the Sabbath,
1. even though the rules would have prohibited that too.
c. He even challenged the Pharisees,
1. who were the very keepers of the rules.
d. And he promised the coming of a kingdom where they would all be free,
1. free of Herod and his oppression,
2. free of Rome and its repression.
e. God’s kingdom meant freedom, because God is freedom.
4. And yet sitting with Jesus the night before he died,
a. he told them what it told them what it took to be a part of that kingdom.
5. Rules; Commandments, he called them,
a. but whether or not you dress them up with a fancy church-ified name,
b. they are all the same.
c. rules that would make them his disciples
d. rules that would let others know they were his disciples
6. If any of us were there
7. it probably would have taken all our self control even to stay another minute
. For instead of the freedom of God’s kingdom, all they were getting is the prison of more rules.
8. And yet the disciples sat there taking it all in;
. accepting the new commandments the new rules of Jesus.
a. And that is because they knew what those new commandments were.
9. Love; Love God and love one another, Jesus said,
a. again and again on the night before he died.
10. OF course to say that love is a commandment is lost on us;
. love is a feeling.
a. Love is something we have to express,
b. and all too often, we say that it is in the expression of love
c. that we break the rules most often.
a. But it was not lost on Jesus’ disciples;
a. for them, love was not a feeling; it was an act
b. To love meant to forgive one another
1. that is why Jesus forgive, even when the rules demanded judgement
c. To love meant to care for one another
1. that is why Jesus fed others and healed others, even though the rules demanded otherwise.
d. To love meant to speak the truth to others,
1. that is why Jesus challenged the pharisees
1. who taught that we should follow the rules,
a. but always out of fear.
e. To love meant to be a follower of Jesus
f. It was what made them disciples
2. Yet Jesus knew, what his disciples knew and we all too often forget,
1. That while there might be any number of ways you can force people to follow the rules,
a. the only way they will freely choose to is love.
1. For then the rules are not the end of our freedom but the way in which we express it.
2. We all know this of course, when it comes to work and school
1. IF you don’t, just ask anyone who works or any kid who goes to school
1. They’ll tell you how much easier it is to follow the rules when you love your job, and enjoy what you are studying at school.
2. We certainly know this when it comes to relationships.
1. If you don’t just ask my friend Jim, for he is now taking out the garbage, cleaning the garage, caring for two children and doing things that would have caused him to run screaming from the doom room 20 years ago.
1. Why? He is in love.
2. And thus the rules of that love are not the end of his freedom
3. but its expression.
3. And yet all to often we forget this when it comes to church;
1. We think we have to teach the rules first
2. and then are amazed when people walk away.
1. maybe We need to sit at the feet of Jesus again,
2. as the disciples did on the night before he died.
3. We need to listen again as Jesus reminds us that the first commandment the greatest commandment , the one that fulfils all the others is love.
4. We need to do this commandment,
a. to forgive one another, rather than punish
b. to care for one another, rather than ignore
c. to challenge one another rather than judge.
d. For when we do these things
1. it is then that we are the ones who love;
2. then and only then are we Jesus’ disciples; then and only then are we the church.