My four-year old son loves to create random rules.
We can’t just throw a ball. Every catch has to have a point value (usually starting at gazillion).
We can’t just shoot baskets. All missed shots must be swallowed in a bubbling pool of hot lava.
There’s no such thing as enjoying a leisurely bike ride. The first to the park gets top dibs at the ice cream truck.
You never just eat the cereal. Ingesting three Lucky Charms marshmallows of the same color in a row makes you the big fat loser.
Rules. Random rules.
These rules give him structure. A way to wrap his mind around a mindless activity, or to add the thrill of competition to a mundane task.
It’s cute and imaginative.
It’s manipulative and controlling (a subtle way for an ambitious four-year-old to begin his hostile takeover of the free world).
Rules aren’t necessarily bad. They bring order to chaos (ask any 2nd grade teacher or mother of three). Clarity from ambiguity. Solid form to the otherwise incomprehensible . But when that Incomprehensible happens to be the Creator of the Universe, our desperate need for clarity, form, and order can lead us to create some things we may regret later.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel just couldn’t seem to get a comfort level with God’s revelation. So over the centuries, they added hundreds of their own rules and interpretations to the commands God had already personally revealed. Rules that, perhaps initially, were just an innocent attempt to paint a clearer picture.
But over time, these rules became a means of control. Manipulation. Comparison. Condescension. Arrogance. Instead of clarifying, they actually expanded the cavernous divide between God and man.
And we do the exact same thing today. Sometimes without even realizing it.
As we grapple with understanding a God so far beyond our comprehension, we turn the “Who” that God is into a “what” that we can quantify. The Creator who longs to know us intimately becomes a religious game to be won or lost. And slowly but surely, the God of the Universe transforms into a list of obligations, rituals, and expectations that manipulate our lives from the outside in. When all along Jesus is waiting to transform us from the inside out.
Don’t eat those three green marshmallows!
And we sort of like it that way. It gives us a strange sense of comfort. Control. A way to make sense of life’s chaos.
All it’s missing is…
What crap do you make up to try and make sense of God? Maybe it’s time to drop the rules and find some Real Life.
“This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I’ll be their God, they’ll be my people. They won’t go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons. They’ll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great.”