Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nature vs. nurture

The age-old question of mankind might go something like this:  "Why did I just do that?"  We find ourselves asking and re-asking this very question as we find ourselves continually reworking our plan to be fresh in our obedience - only to find we will inevitably ask the question once again.

So, then, if with Christ you've put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? "Don't touch this! Don't taste that! Don't go near this!" Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they're just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. (Colossians 2:20-23 The Message)

What happens when we try to keep "rules"?  We struggle with them, right?  We find ourselves asking, "Why am I being asked to NOT do this?"  When someone tells us NOT to do something, we often suspect we are being kept from doing something we might actually enjoy!  We interpret something is being kept from us so we pursue what has been declared "off limits", or we struggle against our desires to "obey" the "rule" set for us, right?

The problem arises when we view "rules" as a set of standards we MUST follow.  When there is a lack of desire to follow them, we struggle with them. Rules aren't bad - they just have to make sense to us, or we resist them severely.  A rule is any set of "understood" principles, or regulations which are to be used to govern our conduct.  They describe for us what is possible or allowable in a circumstance.

Since we have to understand a rule, we resist what we don't understand.  It it makes sense, we do it - if not, we don't.  Paul reminds us they require "pious devotion", "self-denial", and "rigorous discipline".  Now, are any of these in your top three character traits?  Likely not!  When we understand something, we perceive the intended meaning behind it.  We perceive the significance of our actions related to the rule.  In fact, we become sympathetic to the nature of doing something a certain way.

In looking at what Paul was telling us, I think he may have been giving us a clue as t why "keeping rules" for the sake of keeping them really does not work!  We have to understand (be sympathetic to the nature of the rule) in order to really get any benefit from the rule.  When we understand the nature of the rule, we also will understand the "nurture" of it.  Let me explain.  A rule is never intended to just be "kept".  it is designed to "keep us" in some particular way.  A rule is to affect our behavior - in turn, keeping us safe.

One rule we all associate with is the rule of the speed-limit.  When we see the "nurture" of the rule we are more likely to be compliant with the limit set. For example, in a school zone we are asked to drive at a speed of 15 miles per hour, being prepared to stop for children in the crosswalk.  The idea behind the rule is the safety of the children in the school zone.  Children don't always look out for their own safety, so there are rules set to attempt to protect them.  We are asked to "limit" the speed of our vehicles in order to anticipate the unknown activity of the children in the zone.

Often, God asks us to "limit" our activity to what he determines as that which will nurture us and positively impact our nature.  No amount of self-help can impact our nature.  We need the nurturing of God's rules.  So, instead of resisting the rules, let's choose to embrace the nurturing that is able to affect our nature.

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