On Breaking Rules
Why does it seem that we get such a kick out of being rule-breakers? Christians, especially, ought to know better, and I’m convinced we do. Yet we break the rules anyway. And to add to the insult of honor, we gloat in our rule-breaking. We brag about “that time” we got away with breaking the rules. We find some kind of rush in figuring out ways to get around the rules and then proudly boast that we have bested the authorities.
We especially feel free to break rules we don’t agree with. If we don’t like a particular rule, then we don’t have to do it. If I disagree with a rule, then that rule doesn’t apply to me and I can ignore it. If no one is watching, then I’m free to cross the lines and do what I wish. It does not matter what the rules are. It wouldn’t even matter if I had signed some kind of contract or made an agreement. I’ll just do what I wish and as long as I’m not caught, then so what? It was fun. No one is any worse for it, right? However, we cannot ignore what this does to our integrity. Breaking rules because we want to is a mark of selfishness, not of honor.
If you are in the habit of running red lights, but you happen upon one where you see a police officer, so you stop, have you really obeyed the law? We might think, technically, yes. Yet in reality, all we have done is acted out of what is convenient for us, not out of respect for the law, and not ultimately out of respect for God, who tells us to submit to governing authorities (Rom 13:1-7).
We may think that as long as we aren’t violating God’s rules, then man’s rules, school rules, government rules, are pretty much irrelevant to us. We’ll dress any way we want, drive as fast as we wish, say what we will, defy any regulations we do not like, and then fuss about those rules that are ridiculous anyway. After all, rules are made to be broken, and if they don’t break, they can surely bend according to our personal desires. Is that the way we are taught to think by Christ?
Such an attitude is both anti-biblical and arrogant, for it places self above others who must live within a society of rules. If I can break the rules as I want to, why can’t everyone else? What makes “me” so special that I get to live above the law while expecting others to abide by it? Rules exist for several reasons, and one of them is that people have to be able to live together in a society, and this requires some form of mutual respect for the rights of others. Peter wrote, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone…” (1 Pet 2:16-17).
The biblical principle under which all Christians are to live is that of submission. This requires a spirit of humility. Submission is not even really an issue when we agree with something, is it? We do not think of submitting to that with which we fully agree. Submission really comes into play when we do not really agree. Yet, we submit, out of humility, anyway, doing all things without grumbling and complaining (Phil 2:14). This is key to being lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Of course we realize that it is always more important to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). When and if we are forced to choose between following God and following man, we must always choose God. We are not talking, here, about breaking man’s rules when those rules run counter to God’s expressed will. Nor are we talking about special situations that may require doing what we would normally not do (e.g., to save a life). We are talking more about an attitude that thinks rules are not important anyway, so when we do not agree with them we can feel free to do our own thing instead. If we don’t like them, perhaps we can work to change them, but just ignoring them is not a real option for us.
People often laugh and joke about the rules they have willingly broken, especially because so many seem to be silly. Yet regardless of how ridiculous we may think some rules are, we must still do our best to abide by them. We are not claiming perfection in this, and I’m not saying we need to go around in some state of paranoia about whether or not we’ve crossed every possible line. We are talking, however, about an attitude of respect and living with the intent of doing what is right. We can demonstrate a sense of humility and submission by this attitude. Though submission is not a politically correct term, it is a biblical term. More importantly, it is a biblical principle that all Christians are expected to show honor and respect so as not to use their freedom to sin as they wish. Those of the world may well do this; Christians ought to know better.