What is a church? A collection of rules based on law, or a congregation of relationships built on love? Is our action and identity together based on “administering” the procedures, or ministering to people?
Bishop Dick Wills in his book, Waking to God’s Dream, writes, “When Eileen and I were first married, I was surprised to find out there were so many rules. There were rules about where to squeeze the toothpaste tube, rules about picking up one’s dirty clothes, rules about how you wash dishes, rules about taking out the trash, and on and
on. Now after thirty-three years of marriage, we have only one rule in our family. The rule is to always tell the truth. Everything else is based on relationship. The greater the relationship, the fewer the rules.”
As a faith community, are we clear enough about the basis of our relationships to move from legalism and process to love and relationship? As a church, can we declare that our journey with Jesus over the years has led to only one rule in the family – the rule to always tell the truth? As followers of Jesus, the Jesus Family, are we so grounded in our relationship to the living God that, as that relationship becomes greater, the rules become fewer?
Most of the time rules come about because someone has made a mistake or violated a previous value, and a rule is put in place to ensure that other people don’t make the same mistake or violation. It is God’s intention that God’s church feel and operate like the Body of Christ. The major focus is on deep and abiding relationships, not upon an obsession with rules. Wills writes, “If a church can be clear about what it is that God is blessing…we can move closer to enhanced relationships and fewer rules. If we can begin to realize a common vision in any church, then God’s work in our midst is to grow our relationship with God and each other.”
Is it possible that we, as the people of God, will operate better when we make the Rule of God a priority over the rules of rules? Is it possible that we are more obedient to God through the unity of vision as opposed to conformity to process? Is it realistic to base our common life together on a common vision where God is at work among us to grow our relationship with God and with each other?
The apostle Paul wrote, “We must no longer be children tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
The greater the relationship, the fewer the rules. So, who is the rule of your life?