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Understanding Rules: Why the Big Picture Matters

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By Debi Russell

Recently during a counseling session a client asked me a question about sexual purity. It was a good question and I was happy to talk through her thoughts and concerns. But before we got to the practical answer I asked her a question:

Do you think it’s a good rule to not allow children to run into roads to chase balls? Or what about not allowing four-year-olds to watch horror movies? 

Of course she said, "Yes," those were good rules. Then I asked her what the heart behind the rules was. As we talked about safety, both physical and emotional, I explained that often when people ask about sexual purity they are trying to get the specifics of a rule with no understanding of the heart behind it, which ends up making God’s standards seem arbitrary and burdensome. We had a great conversation about God’s design for sexual intimacy to be connected to a covenant relationship much like our soul intimacy is connected to a covenant with Him. How he wants to keep us emotionally safe in our intimate relationships and the heart behind limiting our sexual experiences to the boundary of marriage is for our good, much like many rules we give our children that limit their freedom or expression.

I grew up in the church. I knew God loved me and I knew He was wise and powerful, but I often thought He seemed arbitrary. As though the Bible was full of rules that made no sense and were simply there to test my loyalty to Him or prove I needed a Savior. And while God’s law certainly does expose my weakness and fickleness of heart when I continue to struggle and fail to keep it, God’s purpose in each rule or limitation is love. As our creator and good Father, God gives us commands and limits to both protect our hearts and minds, and also to protect the design he ordered us to operate from.

If I had the skill and genius to design and produce an awesome car or camera or piece of medical equipment, I as the creator, would be the expert on both how to care for the invention (wash it with a specific soap, don’t let it get too hot, etc) as well as how to use it so it doesn’t break and is most effective (drive it at this speed, make it from a certain metal or alloy, etc). God’s rules are never arbitrary even if they sometimes seem that way because we haven’t understood the bigger heart of protection or care He is operating from.

This is why remembering the gospel is so important—we can trust God’s heart of love toward us when we see His plan for redemption. In Jesus dying on the cross we see the depth of God’s love and how it motivates Him to act for our good at great cost to Himself. We also see the wisdom of His plan unfold in a way none of his followers understood in that moment—it looked like a pointless death, until he resurrected! In looking back at the cross and resurrection we see God is trustworthy and good.

Romans 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” In other words, if he allowed his son to die, how can we doubt his desire to give us anything else good we need? As we read the Bible and we learn rules or standards God has set for us, let’s filter them through the lens of love shown at the cross. And ask the question “What is the bigger heart behind this law?” 

Posted by Debi Russell with
in Love

God Is Love and Defines Love

By Whitney Nadeau

When I was in high school, I read C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves and came across the widely-quoted description of love, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” At the time, my thoughts settled more on high school crushes wringing and breaking my heart, but with age and variety of relationships has come a deepened understanding of love for me, and arguably, redefined love more biblically (although I know that I have much more to learn). 

As a teacher, I hoped that my love would cover the wounds of many of my students. 

As a wife, I hoped that my love would bind and secure me to my husband.

As a stepmom, I hoped that my love would be accepted and sufficient to grow my stepsons.

As a counselor, I hoped that my love would be trusted and restorative for my counselees.

As a friend, I hoped that my love would be steadfast and enough.

I so desire for my love to be pure and to be capable of changing people into the vision I have for them, but I know that I am incapable. 

While, my hopes have directed me to an understanding of love, they have also both revealed the insufficiency of my love and pointed me to the accurate fulfillment of it.

My definition of love should have never started with me, but rather with God, who is love itself (1 John 4:8) and acts with love toward the ungodly (Romans 5:6-8).

In Isaiah 53:3-6, vulnerable love is embodied in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-everyone- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

I see the sacrifice and risk that C.S. Lewis described love with, as well as a love that in my own strength I could not attain.

I see a love that is painful as Christ endured the cross to cover my sins.

I see a love that is secure as Christ substituted Himself so that I could be in a right relationship with the Father.    

I see a love that is powerful as Christ resurrected to give me His acceptance and His inheritance.

I see a love that is sufficient as Christ bore, believed, hoped, and endured all things.

God’s love is the only love capable of change and it changes us into the vision we were intended for at creation.

Christ was wrung and broken because He loved us and desired for us to be free from the sin that keeps us separate from God, who is love itself. 

As I cast my eyes on Christ as love and His act of love, I see a love that is calling me to first understand that Christ alone covers, binds, accepts, restores, restores, and embodies love. Second, I see a love that is calling me to love God Himself before I seek to love others (1 John 4:7-8).

I must understand God as love, as well as love Him, before I can overflow that love to others with His help. I must draw near to Christ so that I can love as He loves for we have the mind of Christ if we are in Him and He in us.

Love will call me to be wrung and possibly broken so that others can see and know God’s love, but as it is Christ’s love in and through me, it is sufficient and steadfast.

When I was a teenager, I read my understanding of love into C.S. Lewis’s quote. However, love is not an idea that I have the authority to construct, but rather, God is love and He represents, defines, and makes possible love and does for all the people I love what I had hoped to do.

Posted by Whitney Nadeau with
Tags: cs lewis, god, love