Everyone has a set of rules they expect others to follow. It is often just assumed that the big rules come from us church folk. You know. How we freak out about how much alcohol you can drink, or who you can have sex with, or what you do on Sundays between nine and noon?
But as I read through my social media feeds I see all sorts of non religious fear coming from the ultra conservative libertarian to the ultra progressive anarchist. There are rules to be followed. or else. How many different companies am I supposed to boycott because they support this cause, or do not support this cause, or because they hired this gal, or because they fired this guy.
Sometimes I am even hesitant to buy someone a gift because I am not sure they are supporting the company who is making it. What do i do if I do not know the rules or the steps it takes to live righteously according to your agenda. How much research do I need to do on my grocery store to find out if they are using produce companies who use “green” materials in growing my food? How do I keep tabs on who companies are hiring so I make sure I do not purchase a product from someone who sins. After all, I am supporting them by handing my money to them.
It is exhausting.
All these rules.
From so many different people.
Then there are those rules we use in our relationships. How and when am I supposed to give forgiveness? How and when am I supposed to apologize? How many days do I wait to call back? How soon am I supposed to return your text or private message?
What are the rules? What are the steps? How do i navigate this dance?
It is like when I used to go country line dancing when it was cool in the ‘90s. Do not lie, you were out there too in your too tight jeans and wannabe cowboy boots, before going back to your preppy life. But, those dances. I would go out there and dance the ones I knew how. And sometimes I would fake the dances I kind of knew. But if it was obvious I did not know the dance, I came off the floor. I did not even try. I did not feel like I belonged.
That is what legalism does. It causes people who do not even know the rules to feel like they do not belong.
That is why the way of Jesus is grace. It is why Jesus hung out with sinners.
The only thing rules do is define who is in and who is out. Individually we decide who belongs in our lives and who does not based on how they keep our certain set of rules. As if we are the ones who get to set them. As if we can even keep our own set of rules.
We do that do we not? We judge people harshly for not keeping to our set of rules when we are working so hard to keep them ourselves. And failing.
The way of Jesus is grace. He walks in mercy. He came declaring that God is indeed with us. he came announcing that the time of favor with God is today. Even for the rulebreakers. Especially for the rulebreakers.
We want people to follow our rules so that our relationships can be whole, according to our own terms. But, that is not about real relationship healing. That is some old dance we play and we are not completely sure of the rules or the steps.
What if today, we allowed people to break our rules and instead, showed them grace. The same type of grace you hope for when you break the rules.
Because legalism is not just religious.
That is why the way of Jesus is grace.