No Rules, Just Righteousness

I was not exactly the class clown in school but I must admit I was one to flout the rules periodically and it was usually during the fire drills. I suppose I get why there should be NO TALKING during them but I had trouble obeying that rule. Yes, I was the one who got to write “I will not talk during fire drills” umpteen times when I returned to class.

Fast forward to today. The longer I live by faith the more I realize that Christianity is about Christ making me righteous, or in right standing with God, instead of me following the rules, or dos and don’ts, of religion. I don’t even consider Christianity a religion in the sense that religion is “man’s attempt to reach God on his terms” while Christianity is “God’s attempt to reach man on His terms.”

It is religion that stresses rules over relationships and rules without relationships breed rebellion. In my case, I had trouble being quiet during fire drills because I couldn’t relate how chatting with my neighbor jeopardized the success of the fire drill. And making me write that I’d do otherwise did nothing but make me try harder to not get caught again.

I happen to be reading a good book called Packing Light about a couple of friends’ journey across America. One of its messages to me is how their rule making, which usually led to rule breaking, threatened to ruin their trip. And I love this line from author Ally Vesterfelt: “Perhaps if we lay our rule book down, we could hear God whisper back: 'I’m right here, and there’s a whole big, refreshing, frustrating, and satisfying world in front of us. Will you put down your stuff and come enjoy it with Me?'”

As Eugene Peterson so eloquently paraphrased Paul’s words in The Message: “Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” To paraphrase the words of an Outback commercial: “No rules, just righteousness.”

Inventory Time

As this year draws to a close the time has come to conduct an inventory of my life and stuff. For my wife and I this year has been one of purging and paring not only possessions but also relationships and other parts of our lives that didn’t seem to fit or suit our sensibilities anymore.

Early in the year, we unloaded several electronic gadgets that had just been collecting dust and from there we proceeded to get rid of hundreds of books, pieces of furniture, my wife’s bicycle, assorted lawn equipment, extraneous clothing items, and sundry household paraphernalia.

Propelling us to action was the landing of a neighbor’s tree on the roof of our house, which resulted in our getting the house fixed and placed on the market. Once we embraced the thought of moving, the idea of a more mobile lifestyle motivated us to quit what wasn’t working and to get rid of the unnecessary possessions weighing us down literally and figuratively.

We have made exceptional progress but are not yet at the place where we can move on a whim. For example, as much as we’ve whittled down our media library, we still own about 500 books, 100 compact discs, 20 digital video discs, and miscellaneous other media, not to mention our fair share of related electronic gadgetry.

One of the added benefits of downsizing the detritus of life is processing what you possess and getting to the point where you need what you own and own what you need. After a year of winnowing our possessions, it feels good to possess our stuff rather than it possessing us.