"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My View on Christian Rules

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sometimes in the course of "religious" discussions I've come across people who express a sense of amazement at how few rules and regulations there are in New Testament Christianity.  I'll say this up front that I am from more of a Protestant background so I can't speak of Tradition that Catholics and perhaps Orthodox Christians adhere to. Maybe the rules are in Tradition.  But for me, I tend to let the Bible be my guide. And while there are many wonderful aspects to the Old Testament - like examples of faithful men and women of God and the glorious promises of God in the Prophets and the Psalms written by David and others - I tend to base much of my life on the life of Jesus as described by his followers in the New Testament.

And, no, there are not a lot of rules.

In fact Jesus summed up all the Law and the Prophets with this: love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And when asked who was considered a neighbor, Jesus gave the equivalent of the Israelis and Palestinians today by using a Samaritan man as the hero in a "Jewish story."  So, yes, even your enemy is considered your neighbor and Jesus said you need to love him or her like you love yourself.

Still people want guidelines.  What do we do in the case of divorce? What do we do in regards to inheritance rights for women?  What do we eat? What about this or that or the other situation here?

Most of the people who have expressed surprise - OK all of the ones - have been Muslims who are used to very detailed instructions on things they must do, things they must not do, suggested ways to do things and preferred ways to do things. I know I bring this up on occasion, but it's because I was so shocked when I first began studying more about Islam and saw they even had suggested ways to enter, use and clean yourself after using the bathroom.  Apparently the ahadith is chock full of rules and regulations so a Muslim used to such a way of life is appalled at the lack of direction we Christians must face!

Christ frees us from the weight of rules. We are free to love God and serve others!

You know how I think? 

God gives us principles for living in this world.  Some of us He put in restricted nations like China where in some areas you cannot worship God freely.  Some He put in free countries where we can worship or not worship God such as is the case in my own country.  For whatever reason, God put us in all kinds of countries with different levels of freedom. Do I think He wanted the believers in God who are scattered all over the globe to come together and make a nation called God's Country or Christendom or Islamostan?


I think people have tried such things and failed!  Did Christianizing the Roman Empire bring Jesus' qualities of love for enemies and "going the extra mile" and "the greatest among you is the one who serves" to the people en masse?

We wish!

Instead it seems power corrupts. Whether that is "Christian" power or "Islamic" power or atheistic power, we have to guard against corruption.

I believe God wanted us to have His principles for living and then to live those out within the countries in which He placed us.  Society changes for the better when God changes hearts and lives not when we are made to wear certain clothes or not do this or that by legislation or police enforcing good morals. And for certain marching into other lands trying to change people's minds by sword or bombs is not the answer!

I still remember when I read Karen Armstrong's book and she said Muhammad cared about his family and friends in Mecca so he tried getting their attention by raiding their caravans.  This seems so bizarre!  You show you care by stealing from others?

For those from Europe marching into other lands: you try to convert the masses while at the same time you steal their natural resources?

For me, Jesus gave us guidelines on how to live.  He lived at a time when Palestine was occupied by Romans yet he never called for an uprising although a number of the Jewish people were ready for that.  This is one reason Jesus was rejected as Messiah! The Jews thought their Messiah was going to free Palestine from the occupying Romans.

But Jesus came instead with a message of love and turning back to God. It seemed he was more concerned with their spiritual states than the fact they were physically occupied by an infidel nation!


So no I don't have a list of rules telling me how much I can inherit, how many other wives my husband can take or even my rights in the case of divorce.  I live in the United States and my country has a number of rules covering such issues.  My spiritual role is to live like Jesus within my own country. 

And for you, the same.

One who loves doesn't need rules to tell him how to treat others.

Love God.  Love others.

Whether you are in the United States, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, China, Britain or Venezuela.

If we love God and love others - and treat people like we want to be treated ourselves - just how many rules and regulations do we really need? 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Gal 5:22,23)



Achelois said...

Are you sure we are not connected by some ESP thingy or something equally eerie? I just wrote something on similar lines.

Loved the post! What can I say, it makes perfect sense. And no I don't like rules.

Amber said...

There are more rules in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy than there are in Protestantism, but that's because Protestants just sort of 'go with the flow'. ;P And actually if you look at the older, high church forms of Protestantism you'll see more rules there as well. They actually remain quite close to their origins in the Roman Catholic church. But you're a Baptist and can't be expected to know such things! ;-D

The rules do come from Tradition, but then so does the Bible and the two are never in conflict. And it's not like it is in Islam or even Judaism, where there are rules for inheritance or bathing or the bathroom or eating with this hand or sitting in a certain way. The rules have more to do with interacting with the Divine.

I do love this post and I agree that it is the principles of Christianity that are the key. They are what lead to the change in hearts and minds that lead people to treat others as we should. With respect and equality. It's not a fast process and I do believe that the rules are there to help keep us on the right path, but I know for a fact that there are those who are better people, better Christians without following those specific rules.

Susanne said...

Achelois, how cool to be connected to you in some way! :D

Amber, the first paragraph of your comment made me laugh! :D Yeah, I'm deprived. :)

Thanks for what you added. I especially enjoyed the last paragraph.

I appreciate your feedback, ladies!

Jasmine said...

I know there are "not that many rules" in Christianity - and the qualities that human's are told to have - but actually, forgiveness, love, patience - these are massive massive things which take endless practice and deep deep reflection to achieve as a state-of-being.

TO make these good qualities part of the natural self, one must practice, revise and learn like a martial artist.

By contrast, "do this when you go to the loo", "do that when you eat" may seem very rulesyish (see how I invent words as I go along..!) but actually, these many many rules are so much smaller and simpler than "forgive" and "love"

Its amazing how many people don't even understand or know what love is.


...that was my reaction when I read your post :0)

Jasmine x

Susanne said...

Thank you, Jasmine! I enjoyed your reaction *and* your new word! :-D

Hey, I never said this loving thing was easy! Ha, ha! Jesus told us without him we could do nothing. That's why it is very important to follow what HE would do instead of doing what comes naturally. *I* think I'd like yelling at my enemies and pinching off their heads. But that's not loving them so ...:D

Thanks for what you added. Really enjoyed it!

Susanne said...

P.S.- Jasmine, "but actually, forgiveness, love, patience - these are massive massive things which take endless practice and deep deep reflection to achieve as a state-of-being."

This is why the verse says "the fruit OF THE SPIRIT is.." It's something that comes from the Spirit of God through us. Really we can't will ourselves this way. We need God's help. :)

observant observer said...

I'm always baffled to see that sometimes (maybe it's because i'm only the outsider) the rules compelled to Muslims aren't questionable or are given no sense of reasons (what's the reason behind the toilet procedures LOL). Often I wonder how much the instruction in Koran or Hadist have really put human being as creature that doesn't have the ability to control himself. So instead of saying you can drink wine wisely because it does boost health quality but don't get drunk, Islam chose to ban it totally. Instead of saying man has to control his eyes and desire, Islam instructs to cover the women all over, instead of saying chastity is important in dating, Islam instructs no dating at all.....Islam really relies on externality of others and to some extent become unable to see the responsibilities internally of the faith bearer.

Yesterday I got a chance to meet the wife of my coworker. She veiled herself to the fullest, she wore socks to cover her skin, long sleeves, double shirt to avoid the curve shown, and this happens in a midday of the tropical heat, in contrast her husband just wear the ordinary shirt, short sleeve, relaxed. Don't this man realize and have at least concern pity of how his wife looks so unrelaxed and burdened by this so called rules. I just don't know.....in this situation I doubt this man ever think my way.

I know that one of Catholic instructions is lent, a sort of fasting but as Catholic we know that this is not the mean to get salvation or discount on sins, and abandoning it will lead to hell,it's just a suggested spiritual method to achieve some sort of releasing earthly bonding to see whether we can still praise the Lord in the absence of food or something we like on earth. But that's it, if we think that this method individually can't be applied, there's no sort of punishment, we can look for another method. But my Muslim friends suggested that I refrain from eating in front of them while they fast, again external imposition....for the sake of their own benefit. I don't object to this of course because I believe that we should help people to get their good intention. But again I see a typical outside forces instead of relying the insight within to express outwardly.

Of course there will always be people who think that a set or rules can be a vehicle to achieve piety. I suppose it's a kind of method to skip the biggest issue and escape from responsibility of his or her own self.

For instance: if you insist on certain amount of inheritance of your right, you'd be blind to see that perhaps there will be a sister or a brother who needs the money more. You will just rely on law and rules, you blind your heart. Is that what we're supposed to do?

I cling to the rules of the Lord you mention Susan: Love the Lord with your heart, mind and soul, and love the other as you love yourself. Rules are just technicalities. Technicalities have lots of holes to benefit human's wicked heart. Better to get back into the source or matter..!

Lat said...

Thanks for sharing your views.And I love your qoutes on love!

"If we love God and love others - and treat people like we want to be treated ourselves - just how many rules and regulations do we really need?"

That's true.

Lat said...

If only all people were to think this way...But reality speaks differently.What's ideal remains an ideal because only a few are attempting to reach the ideal (like you!).To most the natural instinct still prevails and that's how they've survived and will survive.

Still life evolves and in the process such an ideal may become a reality,inshaAllah!

Kind Heart said...

Rules Rules Rules!!

Stop This Obsession With Rules

allow me Susanne to let your amazing countryman Dr. Jeffery to answer to this :

have a great day!

Jasmine said...

@ Observant observer - it's true what you say about the Islamic view; modern day Islam treats man as little more than an ape which needs extreme measures to control him and that is very strange indeed but what you must realise is that these rulings of Islam are largely political. To explain: Islam includes Sharia, and Sharia is government, and government is political and politics is influenced by opinion and POWER and so what we have had over many years is different groups (right wing, left wing, liberal etc) creating governmental systems according to what they interpret to be the most authentic application of Islam, and they are motivated by power hence: they are corrupt (check out the Saudi Gov for example and how not-Muslim they are). This is why the Islamic nations are the way they are - they have power and control lust which is why their nations are so repressed.

The second thing I want to add is why does one need to compare to make a point? I mean, truth stands out clear from error right? I think your points about Christianity would be so much more powerful as stand alone truths, rather than making their point through comparison no?

Most anything can look amazing if you sit it next to a pile of poo! I think if you can express the amazingness of something independently, then any demonstration is much more powerful :0)



Susanne said...

Observant Observer,I enjoyed everything you shared. Yes, I have also noticed how the external rules seem to be in place to keep Muslims doing right. As you mentioned covering the women and in many cases segregating them so the men won't be tempted instead of allowing them to be tempted YET choosing to obey God and do right. Thanks for what you added and shared from your personal experiences.

Lat, thanks for your feedback. You and Kind Heart were both on my mind when I wrote this since you so recently asked about Jesus' "rules" or standards concerning women. There are good examples of how he treated women, however, there are no hard-and-fast rules for divorce, inheritance and such. I think the Quran is a product of its time and the rules Muhammad gave were fitting (and MAYBE radical) for 7th century Arabia. It doesn't mean they have to be used today when things have changed. The underlying principles of kindness, fairness - yes. But the particulars can evolve. Or maybe the Quran is for Muslims in a Muslim land ONLY and then this gets into that sticky situation of WHOSE sharia do we follow? A loving moderate type that YOU would propose or the evil one the Saudis impose. So even though some Muslims will say God put it down in stone and it's not up to countries' various constitutions still much of sharia IS subjective and depending on who is in control, you can have a great society under sharia OR you can have Saudi Arabia which I daresay most Muslims do NOT want.

And, yes, it (loving God/others) is ideal. This is why I told Jasmine it is the fruit of the Spirit of God to do such things. We don't do them naturally. It takes God's help.

Susanne said...

Kind Heart, thanks for the video! I'm glad you don't like all the Islamic rules either!! The vast number of them and trivial nature of some drive me nuts! By the way, I wrote this post for you since you were "amazed" recently at the lack of regulations we had in Christianity. :)

Jasmine, I agree with what you said, however, maybe OO wants to compare because she lives in Indonesia where she is surrounded by Muslims and sometimes it's easier to explain things by comparing and contrasting. Thanks for your feedback. I totally agree with what you said about interpreting sharia. I was discussing this post on Facebook with a Moroccan friend this weekend and this same thing came up.

You can read our discussion here if interested. You may agree more with his POV than mine. :)


Thank you all for your thoughts on this topic!

observant observer said...

Susanne, thanks for standing for me.....phewww, I need to apologise to Jasmine or anyone offended by my comment.

You do realize that I was in the situation that it comes natural for me to compare. But I think I should give the Muslims their due respect. I mean, I can say that Islamic fast have been a burden to the other . But infact, I should give Muslims my thumbs up because they have made it to the point that they can really really obey the instruction to fast, sacrificing their time for not eating. Even if some people would say it's just a matter of switching time, I applaud still because I'm one that cannot survive the low sugar level at least to my own measurement without ever trying my best gut.....hahahaaaaa. The blame is on me eventhough the lent would perhaps look too easy for Muslims.
Well, this is perhaps because we are very lax on rules.
I also understand that the imposition on rules that Islam seem to apply is on the intention that everyone should help and support each other to achieve ideal society. Seems that the pendulum will always swing from onne point to the other.....LOL.

Susanne said...

OO, no problem. I know how sometimes it's easier for me to define things by sharing what it is not (contrast) so I understood where you were coming from.

Thanks for what you added concerning Muslims. I don't want to ever come across that I don't appreciate many things about them. Most of them are lovely people who do very nice things. I thoroughly enjoyed all the Muslims I met in Syria and I applaud their devotion to God.

By the way, I had a friend who fasted Lent this year and she said it was harder for her than fasting Ramadan. At least during Ramadan you know the forbidden thing (food, drink, smoking, sex) can be had after sunset. But with Lent, it was WEEKS before she could indulge in her chocolate! :D But I guess this applies only to non-ruler breakers! Ha, ha!

Luke said...

The bible is full of rules. You are not mentioning them here is tow simple rules for you

1 Corinthians 14:34

women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

that to say to women "Shut up!"

another rule "If any man takes a wife, and goes in on her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, 'I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin..." (Deuteronomy 22:13,14)

"But if ... evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones..." (Deuteronomy 22:20,21)

If a man discovers that a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, all the men in town can murder her by flinging stones at her young female body as she screams in pain.

are you trying to make your own religion?

Luke said...

Christ frees us from the weight of rules???. You are either kidding yourself or drank something strong. Jesus did not abolish God’s laws Matthew 5: 17 to 20.

And please remember to keep silent when you go to church next time, that's a simple rule,unless you abolished Jesus rules and G-d's rules and living by you own rules.

Luke said...

this is one of paul's new laws:

1 Cor 11:5-7
And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head-- it is just as though her head were shaved.
6If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

Luke said...

and if you want to take it to extremes, all weather forecasters should be killed. Predicting the future is a no no. A man is not supposed to cut the corners of his beard, touch a menstruating woman, or allow a woman to speak in Church.

that's the rules for you, if you want more rules and laws just ask!

I don’t think Jesus would be a Christian today.

Susanne said...

Luke, welcome! Thanks for sharing your point of view. It's nice seeing what other people in the world think. Take care.

Ze2red said...

i read that, and i enjoyed knowing more about your point of view, and i also went through some of the comments. I kind of disagree on the rules thing, yes we love to be free, and it's just a lovely feeling to be able to do what instincts imply all the time, but aren't they some times mislead by our human desires?

and i caught you saying "That's why it is very important to follow what HE would do instead of doing what comes naturally" Following Jesus in what He does is like having rules in your life, BUT it's like embracing it as a life style, things that you do on daily basis as a routine, but they started out as rules, didn't they?

For example, saying a little prayer before eating, washing your hands before and after eating (logically speaking before is because your hands get in touch with millions and millions of germs and you don't want to get sick, and after, because simply you want to stay clean and not cause stains all over the place).

One final question to you that my professor asked us once, if there were no rules, in any religion what so ever, wouldn't killing be something normal and not prohibited?

Susanne said...

Ze2red, thanks for your comment! I believe we follow Jesus according to the Spirit's leading. I mentioned the fruit/result of that above (love, joy, peace, etc.) Yeah, technically I'm sure you could categorize such things as rules. Humans are big on labeling things so if not stealing or not murdering is considered a "rule" then OK sure. I made note that Jesus summarized all the Law by saying we should love God and love others. Does this encompass a lot of stuff (rules)? You bet.

If I love my husband, I'm not going to be cheating on him (thus I kept the "do not commit adultery" rule, but why focus on the "do not do this" part when I can focus on "I love my husband so I won't do something that will hurt him."). If I love my neighbor, I'm not going to steal from her. If I love God, I'm not going to blaspheme His name. I just think some religious rules are so trivial and controlling when we should be given freedom in some cases. If I want to celebrate my country's independence, why am I prohibited by some religious rule? If I want to throw a birthday party for my child, why limit me based on religious rules? Why say music is always haram (as some do)? Why say we MUST do this or that when they aren't life-or-death situations? Yes, we have rules in the sense that we don't kill,steal, destroy others' property and so forth, but if I love people will I do this anyway?

I'm speaking some concerning trivial matters such as celebrating national holidays, how we enter bathrooms, what foods we are allowed to eat yet also about more non-trivial matters of how we treat others as we want to be treated. You want to be secluded from interacting with society based on your gender? Then don't treat others this way. You want to be told you are deficient in your religion because of certain things? Then don't tell others they are this way. In short, love people and treat them how you treat yourself which is typically very, very good.

I appreciate your feedback!

Anonymous said...

if you want to free yourself from the laws of Christ go ahead but don't call yourself Christian. we can't live by the rules of the bible because they are hard. And honestly if we look at ourselves we never applied a single rule of the bible because of we did we will end in jail and honestly we don't do anything from what Christ used to do. The laws of the bible clashes severely with the modern USA laws and rules we brag about.

we are making our own religion but we lie to ourselves and say that we follow Jesus.

if we meet God with this lie He will burn us and the crosses we hang on our necks in hell.

Matthew 5:17

"Think not that I (Jesus) am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Luke 16:17 "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail."

Anonymous said...

or do you want to teach men to do so, and abandon the rules, then be prepared to be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.

Susanne said...

I'm prepared.

Anonymous said...

i'm not prepared to stay in the chains of the bible anymore, I'm leaving for freedom and mercy Mohammed brought,it is only because our pride and prejudice against the quran and the fear of what our friends might say if we followed him we chained ourselves to Christianity and chained ourselves to these things we read in the bible that neither we followed nor got benefit from nor can we read to our children. wake up!

Ze2red said...

@ Susanne: i'm so glad we are on the same page when it comes to "In short, love people and treat them how you treat yourself which is typically very, very good."

and yes some people can't live without labeling things, if this is how they feel comfy, then so be it :)

@ Anonymous: don't you think you are a little harsh?

Susanne said...

Ze2red, glad we could agree. I really appreciate your comments. :)

Anonymous just makes me laugh. I can't seem to muster up a lot of respect for people who post anonymously. If you are that insecure of yourself and positions, don't expect ME to take them seriously.

Anonymous, I read the Quran this summer. Trust me, if I felt it was from God, I'd follow it. I choose to follow God over caring what my family or friends think. I'm glad you found "freedom and mercy" following Muhammad. To you your way, to me, mine. :)

Ze2red said...

Little question, why did you use the phrase " Follow Muhammad" when you were address Anonymous, and used "I choose to follow God" when you talked about urself? I'm a little bit curious, that's all.

Susanne said...

Because he wrote:

"i'm not prepared to stay in the chains of the bible anymore, I'm leaving for freedom and mercy Mohammed brought"

and I was referring to this. Sorry for the confusion.

Susanne said...

and also this:

",it is only because our pride and prejudice against the quran and the fear of what our friends might say if we followed him"

I assumed "him" meant Muhammad since s/he'd just mentioned freedom and mercy Muhammad brought.

Susanne said...

oh, and as for myself -- sorry I just reread that comment -- I'm open to GOD changing my mind. If I felt God was calling me to accept Quran and Muhammad I would accept them in spite of my family, friends, and society.

Again, sorry for the confusion. Hope that helps.:)