I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
We began our discussion of I Thessalonians 5:23 by reflecting on being sanctified until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will now pivot the discussion to focusing on the words “may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless.” Our lives center around relationships, whether we are referring to our relationship with God or with one another. Thus, a goal and a challenge in life is keeping our relationships sound as we make our journey to salvation.
One thing I have found helpful in some of my relationships is creating rules. Rules have the connotation of restricting things but in reality rules make us free. When we leave our homes to go somewhere, there is a rule that says people can’t take our stuff while we are gone. If there wasn’t a rule like this, none of us would leave home. So, rules actually make us free.
The idea of rules making us free applies not only to society. It applies to personal relationships as well as to our relationship with the Lord. Let’s begin there.
Many people criticize Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts and criticize churches as institutions focused solely on rules. It is true that we do not worship rules. We worship the Lord. However, some “rules” are good. They create order. And they make us free. It is a good that Scripture provides us with guidelines. It is good that church communities set traditions and expectations for their members. Again, we don’t worship traditions and rituals. However, they provide us with a sense of order and freedom, which leads us to a sense of confidence and security.
If we have rules in society, why wouldn’t we consider adding rules to relationships? Let me share a personal example. When I go to summer camp, it is an intense experience. The normal stress combined with lack of sleep and overall emotional environment can create a lot of fun but also make for easier arguments. The core staff and I stipulate before we go that at some point, we are going to have a disagreement. And so we agree on rules we will follow if and when we have a disagreement. We have rules on how to talk when there is a difference of opinion. We have a rule called the “is everything ok” rule so that if someone wonders if they’ve done wrong, they can just ask “is everything ok” and either know everything is alright, or deal immediately if something is not.
There are rules on forgiveness—that if someone asks for forgiveness, they are not told “hey don’t worry about it,” they are told “forgiven.” Forgiveness is given. We also have a rule that twice a week, we ask for forgiveness so that every few days, we make sure that everything is ok and there is no buildup of anything negative.
Rules like this can be applied to working relationships, to friendships, and to marriages. We KNOW that we are going to have disagreements especially with the people we are closest to, whom we see all the time. We KNOW that this is going to happen. So if we know things are going to happen, then we should establish rules for how to deal with things as they happen, rather than letting them fester. And we should exchange forgiveness on a regular basis. Actually say the word “Please forgive me” and offer the words “You are forgiven.”
In school, we all did a fire drill once a month. The purpose for the drill was so that if there ever was a fire, people would respond in a calm and collected way, rather than panicking. In life, we should set up contingencies in the form of rules so that when there is a “fire” in one of our relationships, we know how to put it out. Consider sitting down with your spouse, close friends, or co-workers and agreeing on rules that allow you to disagree and still be friends and that bring you back to wholeness quickly when things get off track.
Lord, thank You for the many relationships I enjoy in my life (list some of them). Help me to work together with those whom I love so that our relationships are safeguarded from harm. When we have disagreements, lead us back to wholeness. Help us to easily exchange forgiveness. Help us to develop mechanisms so that we can easily resolve disagreements, so that our relationships reflect the love and forgiveness that You have modeled for us. Amen.
Set some rules today in your relationships! Frame them under God’s “rules” specifically that we are to love one another!