I feel a need to re-emphasize what I wrote in my last post, because I know that it could be easy to overlook what I am trying to say, and hear only one part, and I want BOTH parts to be heard.
I believe that there are seemingly opposite truths, and BOTH must be believed at the same time. If one is believed to the exclusion of the other, there is error.
I believe that in our walk with Christ, BOTH relationship and “rules” are important. If a person focuses too much on “rules” there is condemning legalism. If a person focuses too much on relationship, there can be tolerance of sin.
God has such deep love for the people of the world that He died for them (you) in order to have a relationship with them. He is not willing for any to perish, but draws people to Him. He does not force people to have a relationship with Him, but offers it as a gift. Those who accept the gift of salvation have eternal life. Those who reject it, have chosen eternal death. Many people find this choice unloving, elitist, and offensive–after all, Many just refuse to believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and they wonder how a loving God could send anyone to Hell. However, one way of looking at it is…I remember when Mount St. Helens was about to erupt years ago. For weeks, authorities warned people of the imminent disaster and told them to get away from the mountain. They didn’t want anyone to perish. Some people listened and their lives were saved. However, some people refused to listen, they stayed on the mountain, and they died. “Rescue” was available to all, but only those who listened and obeyed where “saved.” People chose to accept or reject the warning. So it is with God: He wants a relationship with everyone, He doesn’t want anyone to perish, He died to offer salvation to everyone, but only those who accept it receive it.
Once we become one of God’s children, we enter into relationship with Him. Some churches/Christians are legalistic and condemning, and they do not accurately reflect God. Some Christians feel condemned, shamed, and guilted, and never quite believe that they are really forgiven. They spend their lives trying to earn or deserve God’s love by doing good things. They need to understand the love of God–that no matter what they have done, no matter what they were, no matter how they have failed, God will forgive them and wash them clean of all sin if they repent.
On the other hand, I know of one young man who said he was a Christian, but he felt he could live any way he wanted because he was saved and God forgives. No rules. A lot of people are like this. God is unconditionally loving and forgiving, so they can do whatever they want and it’s all good. This attitude also does not reflect God. People who believe that they can live any way that want need to understand the holiness of God, and they do not truly love God or understand relationship with Him.
I think of the Christian life as a marriage.
I love my husband deeply. We have a friendship with each other; we enjoying talking to each other and spending time with each other. I like to please my husband, and do nice things for him, but I don’t do it because he orders me around, or to make him love me more, or because I am afraid of him. I do things for him as an expression of my love for him, and I enjoy doing things that bring him pleasure. He also does things for me for the same reasons. I could say that I loved him all I wanted, but if I deliberately did things that hurt him or if I kept cheating on him with other guys, then my “love” wouldn’t amount to much.
Even though I love my husband deeply, I sometimes fail him and hurt him. I don’t want to fail or hurt him, but I am imperfect and don’t always do what I want to do. When I wrong him, I genuinely repent, and he forgives me, and our relationship is restored. The opposite is also true. He sometimes wrongs me, but when he genuinely repents of hurting me, I forgive him. Our relationship is restored. If we do not repent/forgive each other, offenses build up and the relationship could break apart.
That is what our relationship with Christ is like. If we really love Christ, He says, we will “keep His commandments.” We will be faithful to Him. We will live a certain way. We will not live any way we want. We will seek to please Him–but not because we want Him to love us more, or because we are afraid of Him (in other words, not legalistically), but because we love Him and want to bring Him pleasure as an expression of our love for Him. We will sometimes fail Him–because we are imperfect. When we do, we can genuinely repent, and He will forgive us, and our relationship is restored.
That is what relationship AND “rules” is like in our relationship with Christ.