Rules and Regulations

It’s surprising sometimes to think about how much our lives are governed by rules and regulations.

Every time we take a journey in the car, for example, we are bound to observe the rules of the road. When we approach a junction and the lights are red, we need to stop the car or the consequences might be very serious. 

If we are making a new dish we have never tried before, we would be wise to follow a recipe or the instructions on the packet. I remember as a student many years ago cooking rice for the very first time. The box told me that 1 cup of rice should feed 4 people, so I got a big builder’s mug and threw it into the saucepan. It looked very small when I thought of myself and my two hungry flatmates, so I threw in another one. I had never really engaged with the possibility that rice might expand when cooking so, when my flatmates arrived home, something resembling Mount Everest of rice accompanied their dinner. Something is lost when you throw away the rules or guidebook!

I heard of a man some time ago who brought his son to a football match, but the referee hadn’t arrived. The boys decided they would play on anyway and he described the chaos that followed. No one seemed to have any grip on the rules and so everyone was running around, screaming about what they believed to be fair or unfair. No one seemed to know where the boundaries of the pitch began and ended. People didn’t even know how many players should be on each team.

Then the referee arrived. He had been held up in traffic. He blew his whistle, gathered the two teams together, explained what he expected from them and the game was so different. Everyone listened to what the referee said, he controlled the game. He decided on what was fair or unfair according to the rules of the game and everyone felt so much safer and more fulfilled than they had in the earlier game.

The big news story dominating the headlines this week was the decision of unvaccinated tennis player Novak Djokovic to enter Australia to play in the Australian Open. Australia has some very strict rules surrounding entering and leaving the country in the current pandemic and there has been a huge restriction on people who are unvaccinated.

Djokovic argued that he had a medical exemption from being vaccinated because he had had Covid in December and produced documentation that verified this.

What was acceptable for the Australian authorities was not accepted by the State of Victoria authorities and the case rumbles on. People get pretty animated and hot under the collar if people who hold prominent positions are seen to flout the rules in any way.

The Prime Minister has found himself and his government in the spotlight for breaches of strict rules they set to impose lockdowns to keep people safe. 

The thing about rules, however, is that wherever there is any wriggle room for interpretation there is often controversy. People will usually argue in such a way as to justify their own behaviour or attitudes.

We see those very emotive arguments playing out in the arena of politics, sports, and in the law courts.

What then if there was an external standard to govern and rule our lives? Somewhere we could turn to find a moral framework, a compass, if you like, to motivate, inspire and guide our behaviour? A reference point to shape and guide our conduct.

For those who are part of the ‘church without walls’ this reference point is found in our relationship with Jesus Christ, His life and teachings.

The key question, as we think about our lives and what we should be doing, is what would He want us to be doing? The manual we study to find answers to that question is the Bible. We seek to live every day with Jesus and immerse ourselves in his teaching and study his life for clues as to how we should be behaving.

We notice various things there as general observations. His life was a life of love. He reached out to and included people rather than driving them away. Sometimes this stance of love put him in conflict or opposition with others, most usually the religious elite who felt threatened by his presence.

He was not afraid to stand up and speak truth to power in terms of seeking justice for those who were oppressed or downtrodden. He offered a relationship with the living God to all who longed for that reality in their lives. He identified the big barrier to that relationship as being human sin and dealt with that problem by paying the price for it through giving his own life.

He invites us very simply to follow Him. 

That will look different for each one of us in our daily situation. How can we follow him and share what we have discovered with our families and friends and colleagues and those who are part of our lives in whatever small way?

That’s more worthy, I believe, of my reflection than whether people have broken laws or rules. The only thing I can take responsibility for in this important matter is myself. Am I committed to living God’s way and bringing glory to Him?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and He will make your path straight. (Proverbs 3 verses 5-6).

Could I ask you to pray for two families going through sadness and loss at the present time, please?

Please remember the family of Dorothy Miller, whose funeral takes place on Wednesday 12th January at 11am and the family of Sylvia Kane, whose funeral takes place on Thursday 13th January at 11am.

Much love to everyone,

Jono.

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