Jesus criticised the church leaders of his day for teaching rules made up by people:
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules'” (Matthew 15:7-9)
Despite this teaching, the history of the Christian church is a history of people making up rules. These rules are hindering the coming of God’s kingdom by causing division within His church.
These “human rules” have often been introduced with the best of intentions – sometimes, for example, to set particular times or structures for prayer or worship; or perhaps to make sure that prayer and worship happen reverently. Unfortunately, obedience to the rules often becomes more important than the activity. The rule becomes the end rather than the means.
When new denominations have started they have almost always introduced new rules – often defining who can be a member. Unfortunately these rules tend to divide the body of Christ. They encourage an “us and them” mentality that stands in opposition to Jesus’ instructions that we are all brothers and sisters (Matthew 23:8), that he wants us to be one (John 17:20-23) and that he wants us to love each other (John 13:34-35).
In order to heal the many, many divisions within the church we have to start getting rid of rules that divide the church. These rules were introduced by people and they can be got rid of by people. Perhaps it would be good if every rule was reviewed every few years to see whether it encourages unity or division within the church. If it is found to encourage division – get rid of it.
There are two rules that we need to follow – Love God and Love others. Everything else depends on these. Jesus said so. We do not need any more rules than these two. Every command that Jesus gave his disciples really just gives us practical detail on how we are to obey these two, most important, commands. (See the article “The Clear, Simple, Practical Commands that Jesus Tells Us to Obey” in the “Being a Christian” category.)