by Adam Kronberger / Superintendent
I love playing all kinds of games. I also am a big stickler for rules. Without rules, games quickly become chaotic and pointless. And as a lover of rules, I always use the rules to my advantage as much as possible, especially the lesser known or misunderstood rules. Oddly enough, when I remind my family of an unusual or forgotten rule, it always seems to move me closer to victory. Of course, my stubborn allegiance to the game maker's set of rules forces me to follow the letter of the law. I confess I may not always be the easiest person to play games with due to the tight hold I constantly have on the rule book. Often, I compromise the goal of family fellowship to satisfy my personal legalism.
The first King of Israel, Saul, seemed to have a similar fault. In 1 Samuel Ch. 15, we read how God gave clear instructions to Saul to utterly destroy the sinful nation of the Amalekites for their opposition to God’s people. Yet in the heart of the battle, Saul’s men were tempted by the loot available from their victory. Despite God’s instructions, Saul feared his men more than God and allowed them to keep the best of the spoils of victory. When confronted by Samuel, Saul’s excuse was that the animals were kept to offer sacrifices to God. Saul was using the religious rules of the day to circumvent serving God so he could serve himself (similar to the Pharisees during Jesus’ day).
In the Old Covenant, sacrifice represented the religion of the day. It’s purpose was to teach the Israelites about the concepts of sin and redemption. But the sacrificial system was the means to a greater end: a relationship with God. The foundation of any relationship is built upon trust. God needed to know that He could trust Saul to obey. Yet Saul used the “rules” of the day to rationalize his own behavior to satisfy his own selfish needs. Samuel responded to Saul in vs. 22 with the always applicable “to obey is better than sacrifice.”
As a fan of rules, my default setting is to adhere first to the system of rules. While rules can serve a wonderful purpose, I often find myself obeying the rules rather than obeying God. Obedience to God is less about the rules, and more about the heart. To walk in the fear of the Lord is to first ask “Is this loving?” and “Is this wise?” While it may not be “wrong” to use the rules of the family game to my advantage, it is not necessarily the “right” thing to do. We are called to love God and love others in our actions rather than serve our own interests. CCS has plenty of rules (sometimes I wish there was more!), and they serve minor though necessary purposes. But the heart of discipleship is not founded upon the “sacrifice” of adherence to rules, but rather a “heart” seeking to obey God.
– Adam Kronberger / Superintendent