Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rules or Relationship

I grew up in a church with a lot of rules.  A woman must wear a dress or skirt to church - no pants allowed.  You shouldn't play cards, because that was too much like gambling, and going to a roller skating rink was a no-no because they played secular music.  Members of the opposite sex should never swim together; and we could only sing three songs for worship, and we had to stand on the last verse of the last song, but remained seated before that. 

While keeping these rules would have put me in better standing with the members of the church, but they did nothing for my relationship with Christ.

The Jews had a lot of rules too.  One of those rules said that it was against the law for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile.  

God had plans for Peter.  Through a vision, God prepared Peter's heart to go visit the home of Cornelius, a Roman army officer.  Peter began to share the Gospel with Cornelius and his family, and even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. (Acts 10:44)  All these people, these Gentiles, believed in Jesus Christ and were baptized that very day.

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.  Acts 11:1-3

The believers in Jerusalem had just heard that the Gentiles had received the gift of salvation, but all they could focus on were the rules that had been broken.

How do you react when someone comes to your church and breaks the rules?

A visitor comes to your service, but isn't dressed in the proper clothes, their hair is too long, and they are covered in tattoos.  Are they welcomed in or shunned for breaking the rules?

The worship leader plays songs that aren't out of the hymnal; the songs are too loud and too fast.  The worship service goes long and the pastor preaches past noon.  Are these frowned upon and fetter for gossip during the week? 

After Peter explained that God gave Cornelius and his family the gift of salvation, the believers in Jerusalem stopped objecting and began praising God.  They understood that God was more concerned about relationships than rules. 

Are you keeping rules or seeking relationship?

Just something to think about. 

Many blessings,

Linking with:
Thought Provoking Thursday @ SomeGirl's Website
Koinonia Thursdays @ Sharing the Journey


  1. How easy it is to fall into to the 'rules' catergory. We all want to be accepted by others, especially other believers, and legalism is seen all over the place.
    We were introduced to the 'grace message', essentially having a relationship not religion, several years ago and it has been liberating for us.
    Rules are not going to bring us closer to God or gain His approval...just man's!

  2. Lisa, such great thoughts. If we focus on the rules rather than the relationship we will eventually loose out. Now, I think obviously there are a time an a place for rules. But they are not put in place to bring us closer to God - we don't need anything but a willing heart to bring us closer to him! :) Great thoughts!

    Great to see you back today and linking up with the Koinonia Community! :)

  3. I've always be a rule breaker... or bender at the very least! I do like this post though. It makes me look at my rule breaking behavior and ask, "Am I doing it for God or to get a rise outta these people?" I'll own it and say most of the behavior is motivated by getting under someone else's skin. Thank you for your thought provoking words!


  4. "While keeping these rules would have put me in better standing with the members of the church, but they did nothing for my relationship with Christ." Amen to that!

  5. I believe the most important thing is relationship. How you look, and if you do things differently are just by the ways
    God bless and great post Lisa

  6. We must have gone to the same church growing up.... ;-) It was a HUGE relief to me to figure out in my adulthood, that God was not mad at me for every little thing. I now have a relationship with a very loving God, not the One that I grew up being more afraid of than loving.

  7. Sometimes I think we should throw out the bulletins and just go downtown and have a service there. When you look at the church in ACts and the rules we follow in church today...they just dont match up. We should be seeking relationships and making disciples, as opposed to letting the weight of "how things should be" take us down. Great post! I always get something great from your posts:))

  8. "The rules" cause division inside and outside of the church and often lead us into legalism and judgement of others... definitely things we are warned against. In seeking relationship with Jesus we can easily test the rules with His word and character to see if we've gone astray. Great, great post :)

  9. My husband served a church with rules like that once. We were only there 2.5 years. If a relationship with God depended on obeying the rules Jesus wouldn't have had to die for us. So glad that He loves us and made a way for us to be in a loving relationship with Him. Great post, Lisa!
    Pam from

  10. Hi Lisa - just a quick note to say that because your blog inspires and incourages me, I have passed along a bloggy award. See my post of today
    God bless

  11. The most important thing for me is my relationship with God. Is it a living relationship or a relationship in which I avoid Jesus and choose other idols? That there are certain rules associated with the Christian faith is not bad. But when rules are suffocating our faith in Jesus it's dangerous for the believer.
    I grew up in a church with many rules. Now I'm grown, I have chosen not to hurt people trying to harass him, but I'm honest and tell them that certain rules has nothing to do with the Christian faith. Do you understand my poor English?


  12. Lisa, I too grew up with lots of rules and even after leaving such a rule laden church, it's easy to fall into expecting others to fit our norms. More than rules, I long for relationship with Christ.

  13. We do have certain rules at our church that need to be followed. They are outlined in our church constitution. When someone wants to join our church, we give them a copy of the constitution, and go through it with them to make sure that they are in full agreement before they join. However, all of our rules are based on scripture. There is nothing on clothing, or when to stand, and what type of music. It is more along the lines of what to do in certain situations and what we believe in. We do not require visitors to follow them. And we do not mention them hardly at all unless needed to. We try to be a Christ centered church. We learn to build those relationships with others just like Jesus and the apostles. I think that rules can be a good thing to a point. As long as they are not taking away from the relationship aspect of worship.