We just returned from a 10-day vacation. We visited relatives on both sides of the family, attended the Indy 500 and spent a week on Lake Freeman in Indiana with my extended family.
The house we rented on Lake Freeman had its own beach. We never went in the water, but the kids spent hours playing in the sand. The beach had a pretty steep drop off into the water, so we were a bit concerned about someone accidentally falling in.
With six kids on the beach ranging in age from 3 to 10, we spent a lot of time telling them not to get too close to the edge. We discovered that "close" is a relative term. The adults' idea of close to the water wasn't what the kids considered close to the water. There was much discussion between parents and children about how close was too close.
To solve the issue, we laid a rope in the sand and said, "Don't cross this line." The defined line made it much easier for the kids to know how close was too close to the water. It was interesting to watch how each child dealt with the clearly defined rule.
Our two rule-followers never went anywhere near the rope. Once the line had been defined for them, they didn't have any trouble not stepping over it. The other four weren't as convinced about the steadfastness of the rule. They would get near the rope and often try to see how close they could get to the rope.
I sat and watched my youngest get as close to the rope as possible and even put her toes on the rope. She knew better than to actually cross the rope, but she wanted to see how far she could go before it was considered disobedient.
How often are we like my youngest? God clearly lays out rules for us to follow -- not because He loves making rules but because He loves us. Yet, we don't always see the wisdom in those rules and we see how close we can get to the line He has drawn -- and often we step over it. The consequences are that we step into sin without meaning to.
None of our kids wanted to fall into the murky lake water, but if they got too close that's exactly what would have happened. The same is true with sin. Most of the time, none of us intend to jump into sin. We just get too close to the line and fall in. We end up covered in the muck and mire of sin because we stepped over the line God drew.
Jesus told us in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commands." Following God's rules is a way that we show we love Him. If we try to follow God's commands as if they are a to-do list to get into heaven, those rules become a burden. But if we recognize that God created rules for us because He loves us and we follow those rules because we love Him, staying within the lines God has drawn becomes an act of worship, not a tedious task.
Most of the time, we make rules for our kids because we are concerned about their safety or their character. The same is true wtih God. He didn't just set arbitrary rules. All of the commands God gives us are either intended to keep us safe or to mold our character.
As you memorize John 14:15 this week, help your kids to understand that God's rules are about love -- not restrictiveness. He loved us enough to give us a framework in which to live. We show we love Him by following His commands.
Toeing the line of God's commands is much easier if we understand the reasons behind the rules. And God's reason is love.