Going for a walk on a busy street can be very stressful for me when I am walking with my husband. He has no problem at all jaywalking. The busier the street, the more he wants to jaywalk, it seems. This totally stresses me out because I have definite rule follower tendencies. A rule follower is someone who does their utmost to obey the law of the land, follow all their business’ processes to the letter, eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, walk 10,000 steps every day, wash their hands before every meal, pay their bills before the due date, etc. A rule breaker is someone who has no problem running a red light on a deserted farm road if they are the only car on the road for miles.
We all lean more one way than the other when it comes to rule observance. Overall, the panache of being a rule breaker is generally desired. No one wants to be known as an inflexible, stiff rule follower.
My natural adherence to rules springs from the fact that I could not get away with anything when I was a child! I always got caught, always.
Every week my Sunday School teacher had us sing this song: “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear, be careful little hands what you do. For the Father up above is looking down with love, oh be careful little eyes what you see.” This song made a huge impression on me. It gave my little 4-year-old mind a picture of God with binoculars watching my every move, ready to catch me doing something wrong. The message of the song was meant to instill the concept of the all-seeing Father and the knowledge that God sees everything. His oversight over my life was loving but observant.
This song, and the experience of being caught by my mother for every infraction, made me want to choose well. The best way to avoid consequences was to obey the rules. As I grew older, I understood more of God’s grace and the need to walk in the Spirit and not depend on good works to keep me safe and feel secure. “Therefore no one will be justified in His sight by works of the Law. For the Law merely brings awareness of sin” (Romans 3:20).
Ephesian 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When I finally understood this verse, the ability to separate following God’s ordinances without attributing it to my salvation was a critical discovery in my life. God’s rules and instructions were more about creating a rich soil for learning to love him than about producing fruit or avoiding the negative consequences that come from disobeying the law.
Freedom from the law of sin is what Jesus gave to us. God’s law of love is so much different from the law of sin and death. In Romans 8:2 it says, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” This shows us that Jesus’ law gives life. During Jesus’ time on earth, he was both a rule follower and a rule breaker. He followed God’s rule of loving but ignored man-made rules as evidenced by healing on the Sabbath. Because of this, I am free to follow the law of love. If I am loving God and others, I am a rule follower. This is the kind of rule follower I want to be: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ’You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13: 8-10).