It’s easy to get caught up in rules and outward appearance. That’s actually our natural bent. Rules are objective. Appearances are objective.
You and I both know that’s not true. Rules and consequences automatically infer authority. The “if/then” of requirements only works if the results are seen, judged, and enforced. Rules and consequences, then, easily set themselves up for hierarchy. They don’t have to, but that is our natural tendency as sinful creatures–to set ourselves up to be served rather than to serve.
Don’t misunderstand–rules are not wrong, authority and consequences are not wrong. But rules, authority, and consequences can be easily misused and misapplied.
One evening a young woman read this Psalm, stumbling in an unlikely place: “He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence him. For he knows we are but dust and that our days are few and brief, like grass, like flowers, blown by the wind and gone forever.” (Ps. 103:13-14) The result of her stumbling sounded like, “He know we are…but…dust.” And that is what we are. Butt dust. I don’t say that irreverently, but taking ourselves too seriously puts us in danger of seeing our rule, authority, and appearance compromised. When that is the case, we have placed the weight of our importance on others. And forgotten we are butt dust.
God calls us to see ourselves–and others–from the perspective of humility and equality. Yes, rules exist for our safety and well-being. Yes, authority represents the Godhead and is a God-given reality. However, in Christ Jesus “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one….” (Galatians 3:28). Jesus, by His substitutionary death and brotherhood, creates an equality, or mutuality, in position, value, and worth. Acknowledging and leaning into our mutuality helps us guard against self-deceit, pride, and sinful use of God-given roles and responsibilities.
Our likeness, our similarity, comes with a simple charge:
He has told you, mortal one, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
God’s purpose and design for rules, authority, and consequences is, simply, to reflect Him:
- To do justice according to His standard–governed by love, walking in the Light and exposing darkness (John 3:19-21; Eph. 5:1, 8-16).
- To love kindness; to owe one another nothing except love, which is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8-10)
- To walk humbly with your God–not to be God, not to take His place in other’s lives or live for the approval of others, but to see ourselves as individuals solely and wholly accountable to Him.
There will naturally be distinctions in our lives: parents, children; employers, employees; husbands, wives. The distinctions have no bearing on our call to walk in love. Instead, there is a greater call for those in roles or positions of rule/authority/consequences to walk lightly, prayerfully, dependently, watchfully, carefully. With this responsibility, comes a greater weight of stewardship. The calling remains the same.
I bless the holy name of God with all my heart. Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things! My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! He gives justice to all who are treated unfairly. He revealed his will and nature to Moses and the people of Israel.
He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; he is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for his mercy toward those who fear and honor him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence him. For he knows we are but dust and that our days are few and brief, like grass, like flowers, blown by the wind and gone forever.
But the loving-kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting to those who reverence him; his salvation is to children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant and remember to obey him!
The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything there is. Bless the Lord, you mighty angels of his who carry out his orders, listening for each of his commands. Yes, bless the Lord, you armies of his angels who serve him constantly.
Let everything everywhere bless the Lord. And how I bless him too! (Psalm 103 TLB)