Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day for teaching rules that were not God’s rules, but human rules:
“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 human rules. I would like to suggest that Jesus gave us all the rules that we need, so we don’t need human rules. These rules may have been introduced with the best of intentions but, often, obedience to the rule has become more important than the intended outcome. To put it another way, the rule has become the end rather than the means.
Human rules are, at best, unnecessary but they can also cause real damage. Tragically, many of these rules hinder people who are wanting to live Godly lives, rather than helping them.
When new denominations have started up, they have almost always introduced new rules – often defining who can be a member. Unfortunately, these human 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). These human rules are hindering the coming of God’s kingdom by aggravating divisions within God’s church. We are all aware of the many, many divisions within the universal Christian church to which we belong. One way we can start healing those divisions is to get rid of the rules that divide the church. I say again; these are human rules. They were introduced by people and people can get rid of them. Perhaps it would be good if every Christian church, denomination and organization examined its rules every few years to see whether they encourage unity or division. If any rule is found to encourage division – get rid of it.
Or, perhaps, there is a simpler solution to the problem; we only adopt the rules instituted by our loving Lord and Savior. Jesus said there are two rules that we need to follow – “Love God” (with everything you’ve got) and “Love others the same way you love yourself”. Everything else depends on these two. Jesus said so (Matthew 22:40). OK, Jesus also left us with a short list of commands that he said should be taught to new disciples, but I reckon that every one of those commands just gives us practical detail on how we are to obey the two, most important, commands. (You will find a list of Jesus’ commands on the homepage.)
Let’s get rid of human rules, sisters and brothers. Let’s get rid of them.
Jesus is Lord!