They are basic to every one of us. We are social creatures and without relationships with one another it would be an awfully boring existence. But along with relationships come the rules and the ways we conduct them.
It’s not hard to destroy a relationship, or at least harm it. As much as Christians don’t like to refer to their relationship with Christ as a religion, a set of rules that govern belief, it is that. But it is more than a religion. We have a relationship with the living God.
Like any other relationship, it is governed by rules. Some of them are written rules as we’ll see. But many of them are unwritten in a relationship. This is how it is so easy to harm or destroy a relationship with someone. If we don’t know the rules we can’t play by them.
Not about Rules?
Christians make the distinction that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a religion full of rules to follow. The whole idea of rules makes it sound like a rigid relationship or a religion. And people are afraid of committing to a rigid, rules-based religion.
It’s not a wrong thing to say, that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion. But the fact is it is a religion. It is one of the five major world religions. So to say that it is not a religion is misleading. We don’t stop at a religion. It is a relationship with Jesus.
But even that relationship with Jesus has rules. If we do certain things to upset the Lord or his Holy Spirit the relationship will be threatened. We see throughout Israel’s history that their continual flirting with, and acceptance of, idolatry kicked them out of the Promised Land God gave to them as part of his covenant with them.
So we can mess up relationships if we don’t know the rules. But the best part about our relationship with Jesus is that he is very forgiving even when we break the rules. This doesn’t mean that breaking the rules should be a regular occurrence either.
We must accept the fact that this is a relationship based on rules. God expects certain things from us and we receive the benefits of our relationship with him. We don’t always get it right, but we must do our best to enjoy our relationship within the bounds Jesus has set for us.
All about Identity
Like every relationship we begin with God on the basis of his identity and ours. Before God begins to lay out the Ten Commandments, part of his covenant with Israel through Moses, he opens by establishing his relationship with them.
Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the Lord God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery.” He lays the foundation of being the Lord God to Israel. Not only that, but his relationship with Israel begins with him as their Redeemer who brought them out of Egypt, the land of slavery.
This is all the Israelites know. They know God is the one who freed them from slavery. Today Christians can hear God say, “I am the Lord God who brought you out of the slavery of sin and death.” We all have a foundation for how we know God.
But every relationship is based on a foundation. Usually the way we meet a person is the foundation of our relationship. Perhaps you have a friend from school who still friend. Perhaps it’s a friend you met at work. That relationship beginning is the foundation for how that relationship will proceed.
So we all as Christians begin our relationship with the Lord knowing that we are sinners and he is gracious. He was faithful to us before we were faithful to him. Knowing who we are in Christ and who he is to us shows him as Lord of our lives.
But he also gives us an identity in Christ unlike any identity we’ve had before. While we start as knowing God as Savior and us as sinners, he declares us righteous and makes us part of his family. He federally changes our identity from the ground up. And now that we know Christ we walk in a different way before we knew him.
Every relationship has unwritten rules. These are the things we generally pick up on the longer the relationship goes. These are the kinds of things you begin to realize as you get to know a person.
Some people like certain things, or don’t like certain things. These are things you were never told in the relationship but have a good understanding of. Your friend may like certain activities and not like others. They may mention it one time but they expect you to remember it.
Sometimes you find out these unwritten rules by breaking them and finding out the hard way that they are rules to the relationship. But no matter how you discover them they are unwritten rules that you must follow if you wish to continue in that relationship.
In our relationship with God we don’t have too many unwritten rules. God is very clear about what he expects from us throughout the pages of Scripture. So now let’s start looking at some of these written rules that guide us in our understanding of how to proceed with him.
We notice right away as we look at Exodus 20 that God starts with the written rules of his relationship with Israel, the Ten Commandments. These ten written rules set up his relationship with them and show them what he expects throughout the relationship.
Sometimes we refer to these as moral laws and God still expects them of us today. They have not changed and the first four helped of in our relationship with God himself. The last six show us how to live with other people.
God will go through many other written rules for Israel, which we call the Torah or the law of instruction. Christians are not expected to fulfill all of these 613 laws. However, we can learn something from every one of them.
But God does expect us to fulfill the “moral laws.” When Jesus was asked about the laws of the Old Testament he said that you love the greatest laws are expected of us (Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28).
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). And the second greatest is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).
The way we treat God and other people matters to him very much. If we hurt one another we hurt God. He cares because other people are made with his image. They are his creatures just as much as we are. So we must value one another as much as we value God.
As we look at Christian relationships we will be examining our relationship with God and our relationship with others. These unwritten and written rules govern our relationship with both. The Ten Commandments will be our main guide, but we will explore other relationships with these commandments in mind.
Our relationship with God is not just governed by the Commandments. There are also principles in place and we will look at these as well. Commandments and principles tell us how to live for God and how to deal with others. Leave a comment and describe how you see commandments and principles coming into play with all of your relationships.