Do I have to follow the rules?
Tim: So, sometimes people ask the question “Do I have to follow the rules?” And of course, the best answer to any question is a question, so I think maybe a good response would be “What do you mean by have to?” What do you think people usually mean when they say, “Do I have to?”
Mark: I mean, they’re asking “What will the consequences be?”
T: Is that really what they’re asking? What do you think when your students come and ask, “Do I have to do this?” What do they mean? “Can I not do it without consequences?”
Joey: I think that’s what they mean.
M: Is something really gonna happen to me?
J: Would it still be okay if I didn’t do this?
T: What do they mean by okay?
J: That’s a good question.
M: That’s where you get consequences, right? Am I gonna get in trouble somehow? Am I gonna pay a price?
T: So I think the rote answer to the question “Do I have to follow the rules?” is no.
M: Because you don’t have to, you actually have free will.
T: That’s what makes humans human because God gave humans choice. And you’re given a very graphic illustration of that in the Garden of Eden, where God says, “I’m gonna make one rule and I’m just gonna make this really simple. Just one. You can do anything you want with no consequences that will be negative. I’m gonna give you one rule with one negative consequence. If you eat of that tree, you’ll die. Just one.” And then God masked himself, He masked His presence so that the choice could be real. And did they have to follow that rule?
M: No. He gave them a choice.
T: You can have a choice.
M: So you don’t have to follow the rules, from the very beginning.
T: You never have to follow the rules. But if the question is, “Is there always a consequence to my choice?”
T: The answer is always yes.
J: Yeah for sure. And I think part of the undercurrent of that question, which I think is a false paradigm of the Bible or Christianity in general, is about asking me to do all of the things. I don’t want to do this, so how much can I get away with? How much do I have to actually let go of the things that I really want to do and what I really enjoy doing?
T: So that actually brings up another question, which is maybe a better question, which is “What are the rules?”
What are the rules?
M: Yeah and I think there’s a big misimpression of that. Because I think, certainly speaking for myself, before I read the Bible and before I was a Christian, I just thought it was a rule book. And it’s got all kinds of stuff in it, it’s gonna tell me what sin is and sin is all the stuff that I’m not allowed to do. Probably lots of it I really want to do and that I would really like to do, and now I gotta give all that up if I want to be saved, if I want to be a Christian. That was kind of my impression. But that’s what a lot of new Christians and people who are thinking about Christianity think. So they say, “Well, I want to do whatever it happens to be. I live with my girlfriend now and I won’t be able to do that anymore.” And premarital sex or whatever the fill-in-the-blank that their flesh is attached to you, for lack of a better term. They want to know, “Can I keep doing that and still be a Christian? And so, what’s the rule set? And how much of that do I have to follow?”
T: Or, “What do I have to give up?” And so the interesting thing is, in order to become a Christian, that means to be born again. We covered that in the “Born Again” episode, which is enough faith to look and then you’re born again, which is something that’s a gift that’s given and God’s gifts are irrevocable. So in that sense, it’s pretty simple. And then the question is, “Oh, if it’s that great, then I should be able to do whatever I want to.” And the answer is yes. Yeah, you can do whatever you want to. And will it affect how much God loves me? No, no, it won’t. Well, can I still be in His family? Yes, absolutely. But will there be consequences? Oh yes, enormous consequences. Well, can I get rid of that? Can I make it where there’s no consequences? No. That’s the no answer. Well, how can I make it where the cause-effect is different? That’s, I think, ultimately what we’re really usually asking is, “I don’t like the way God made cause-effect, I want to do it a different way. And that we don’t get to choose. And as I’ve studied the Bible, one of the things that’s become clear to me is that what God is saying with—let’s call it the rule of law, we do a lot of political stuff together, so rule of law is a political term, it comes from the Bible. And rule of law is essentially that God gets to make the rules and what God made was cause-effect. And it is, it is what it is. You don’t have to believe it and you don’t have to act on it, but gravity is gravity. And you can say, “I just do not believe in gravity.”
M: Jump off a building and you’ll still hit the ground.
T: It’ll work for a second or two, and then you’re gonna hit the pavement. And it’s that way in the moral universe too. So yeah, sexual sin or whatever it is. Yeah, you are being given the choice to do all those things. The thing is, the consequences, what the Bible’s telling you is, the consequences of those things is death. And if you want death, then do that. And if you want
life, do this other thing.
The Wages of Sin are Death
M: Can I dig in a little on that? Because this is something I would say also, as a newer Christian, you hear that sin is death. The wages of sin are death. What does that really mean? Does it mean death in the sense that, “Okay, so you’re just gonna die if you sin?”
T: Well, so let’s start with, “What is death?” Alright? So let’s just think about how we use that term in English. So I’ve got a dead battery, what does that mean?
M: No more power.
J: No more battery.
T: It was flowing and it got disconnected from the circuit, that’s what that means. Okay, I
have a dead relationship.
M: You had a flowing, thriving relationship and it’s now broken.
T: It’s now disconnected. It’s separated, right? Okay, death of a dream. I was connected to this thing, it’s now broken. Death is a separation and that’s true with physical death too. If I were to start gagging and drop over, my body would still be there, it hasn’t stopped to exist. Death is not the cessation of existence. And my spirit would still exist, they just separated. The spirit left the body, that’s a separation. So what death is, is a separation, and sin always brings separation. So just pick one. Adultery is clearly a sin. If you commit adultery, something dies in that relationship, some level of trust does. Now, there can be redemption and things, but the level of trust you had will never come back. You can get a new level of trust, but the old level of trust never comes back, and that’s true with any sin. So that’s question number one, “What is death?” It’s a separation. The second question is, “What does wages mean?” And when I say wages, if we’re just using regular conversation, what does that mean?
M: It’s what I get paid.
Consequences and Separation
T: What you get paid. Consequences. The consequence of sin is death. So it’s a consequence of a choice. Death is a separation, you always get a separation. So, then what is sin? And sin, well, I’ve got my definition, what would you say?
J: I would say sin is misalignment with God, anything that is not in alignment with who God is.
T: I’d say sin is anything where you deny the reality of cause-effect, where you decide gravity is not going to affect you anymore and you try to go a different way and go against cause-effect. And there’s a moral cause-effect as much as there is a physical cause-effect.
J: I think another element to this question is, like I was hinting at before, the false idea that sin is all of the fun, great, exciting things about life. And what the Bible and Christianity are asking me to do is to not do those.
T: I’ve gotta give those things up.
J: I’ve gotta follow these rules, which means I’ve gotta lay down all of the things I really want in order to follow them. But I think that’s a false narrative. I think when we talk about “the wages of sin is death” what it’s saying is that what is actually best for you, what you actually want out of life dies when you choose a path that’s not in alignment with God as reality, God as He’s created cause and effect.
Laws of Creation
M: To bring that full circle and wrap that up, what we’re saying is, there’s a full rule set, essentially the Bible as a way of living and it’s in alignment with God.
T: I don’t know about that. It’s more like–
T: Well, what do you call the physical laws?
M: Laws of nature.
T: There are laws of nature, and there are laws of relationships…it’s like the laws of creation, let’s call it. Things work a certain way and they just do
M: But the reality is that you don’t have to acknowledge those if you don’t want to.
T: You don’t have to acknowledge those, you can go against them. But if you do–
M: Things will happen that you don’t like. There will be consequences.