Christianity: Rules-Oriented or Joyful?
From the outside, Christianity may appear to be a restrictive religion, leaving people to think that they would be constantly living in fear of making a mistake if they were to become Christ-followers. They see Christianity as a religion with a set of rules that limit life. But for those who understand Christianity fully, it is quite the opposite. Jesus said he had come to give abundant life. That full, joyful life comes from a life in line with God’s desires and a love for others.
When a Christian’s worldview aligns with God’s rules, the results are freeing and joy producing. God has high expectations for his followers, but the commandments entail a blessing for the followers. A simple investigation of the Ten Commandments shows that those expectations result in peace with God, peace with others and peace with self. Beyond those first ten rules, guidance for godly living is evident throughout the Old and the New Testament, but these are not meant to be rules for rules’ sake. They are meant to be a set of boundaries that will ultimately cause blessing.
For the Christian, following the rules — not just the Ten Commandments but also the other rules for living — produces many positive benefits. When people follow God’s expectations, their relationship with God is good, their other relationships are good, their community is happy and, ultimately, the people obeying God themselves are content, peaceful, hopeful and looking forward to a future full of blessing.
Some of God’s expectations that become values for Christ-followers include thinking more of the other person, loving the stranger and withholding reactions after being mistreated. Beyond the Ten Commandments, God repeatedly told his people that they were to care for the poor, the foreigner and the orphan. The Old Testament prophets show that he punished them when they disregarded those rules for living. Caring for the people in need was clearly important to God.
Godly Expectations: Countercultural Living
In many ways, these values inherent in God’s rules are countercultural in the United States today. People living in poverty and refugees are both often marginalized, even in churches. Behavior that does not welcome and care for the outcasts contradicts God’s directives to his people in the Old Testament and what Jesus taught by word and example. Jesus himself embraced the poor, the foreigner and the second-class citizen on many occasions.
The Apostle Paul further clarified God’s expectations when he taught the young churches in Ephesus and Philippi to minimize the focus on themselves, to forgive, to be kind and to look at the interest of others. Those values are misaligned with today’s teachings, which include a focus on “me” with an eye to independence, self-promotion and self-sufficiency. But if Christians heed the teachings of the Bible, many positive outcomes emerge.
Result of Following God’s Expectations: Peace
One outcome of thinking more of other people and seeking their well-being is personal peace. At a minimum, the internal peace one experiences when focusing on another person’s happiness is refreshing. One’s own troubles seem smaller when others have greater challenges. People who are focused on themselves and their needs can become consumed with misery, frustration and fear. When they notice and seek to meet the needs of the poor, lonely and outcast as God directed, their focus is on helping someone else and their own needs fade. In this way, a Christian is the beneficiary of peace through focusing on others as God intended.
Result of Following God’s Expectations: Hope
Another unintended benefit is hope. Giving another person hope and encouragement to keep going reminds a Christian of the hope found in Christ. Encouragement for someone in poverty can come through a bottle of cool water, a meal, clothing, a ride to a job interview, help with conversational English or any number of other blessings one could give. An unexpected blessing of following God’s instructions in these cases is that by offering hope to the one in need, the giver of hope also receives the reminder and reinforcement of hope.
Result of Following God’s Expectations: Future
When one has hope, the future seems possible. For the new person in town, the refugee, the alien or the one with no family, the future can feel terribly bleak, but when a believer can share hope and a future with that person, everyone in the conversation is encouraged. Believers, beyond knowing they have been obedient to God’s laws, are reminded of the joyful future they have in store.
Many other blessings are coming for those who are obedient to what God has laid out. Clearly, God gave the Ten Commandments and many other directives to his chosen people. Those rules were reinforced by the teachings of Jesus and the guidance Paul gave the New Testament churches. All of those indicate the importance of a certain way of living. That life, lived in line with God’s expectations, produces a blessing for those who receive as well as those who are obedient to give. The unspoken values of the Christian life include peace with God and the joy produced by loving others.
Approved by Faculty from the College of Theology on Sept. 22, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.