During high school, Sunday nights were for Scrabble with the fam (what can I say, I had a wild adolescence). Dad always won (still does), but hey, I’m studying a major in English now, so maybe I’ll beat him someday. My siblings and I had a habit of looking for loopholes, sneaky ways to cheat the system so that we could win. I don’t think it ever worked, but Lord knows we tried. We’d make up words, use the dictionary, swap our tiles countless times…

… humanity has a fondness for breaking rules as quickly as we make them (think Lance Armstrong or the Australian Cricket team). We do it with games & we do it with God.

But over the weekend, I heard a quote that changes everything: “love is far more demanding and love has no loopholes” – it came up during a sermon, from a person for whom I have a lot of respect. And now, my mind is blown & buzzing.

Faith is a matter of relationship over rules, where relationship overrules.

Hear me out.

Here’s the thing.

Rules are easy. Relationships aren’t. We can work around rules, we can bend them and break them; we can find exceptions and conditions; manipulate the system for our convenience…

Sometimes, in school, if I was doing a difficult exam, I would start counting my marks, during the exam to try and guess whether or not I could expect a pass. One can try to do the same thing with God, look at Love Himself and reduce everything to a series of cold, clinical calculations – we can turn to Him and ask, “what are the numbers? What is the least that I can get away with? Exactly how much is good enough? Will I pass?”

But relationships aren’t arithmetic! Relationships are nuanced and messy and painful and beautiful; as rewarding as they are demanding. And unlike rules, you can’t just “work the system” – what kind of jerk looks at a person, who they love, and tries to bend or break or manipulate them? Who aims to give their loved ones nothing but the bare minimum? At that point, is it love?

God isn’t a game we play to win, God is God. God is love.

And in the words of Paul, an apostle and a brilliant Hebrew scholar; “love is the fulfilment of the law” – it’s the one rule that carries all the rest.

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus asked people to be better than the big-shot rule-keepers of His time, He asked people to go above and beyond a rule-centric idea of righteousness. There were these people called Scribes and Pharisees, and they were very good at playing the game. They were very good at working the rules. But Jesus asked for more:  He cared about their actions and their motives. He cared about their hearts and their minds.

Again, just a reminder, “love is far more demanding and love has no loopholes.”

Earlier, I proposed that faith is a matter of relationship over rules, that relationship overrules. Here’s why. Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:

  • The rules say, “don’t murder.”  Relationship says, “yes, don’t murder and don’t get angry at anyone either” (Matthew 5:21, 22).
  • The rules say, “don’t cheat on your spouse.” Relationship says, “yes, don’t cheat and don’t lust after anyone else” (Matthew 5:27, 28).
  • The rules say, “love your neighbour.” Relationship says, “yes, love your neighbour and love the people who hurt you too” (Matthew 5:43, 44).

See the pattern? Relationship asks us to look at the rules and level up. Relationship raises the bar. Again, say it with me, “love is far more demanding and love has no loopholes.”

Fam. Following Christ isn’t calculative, it’s relational! It’s a matter of love! There’s no “bare minimum”, no cutting corners… if anything, there’s the complete opposite: we go the extra mile for the people that we love. We give them above and beyond what is necessary. Rules aren’t enough, rules are too easy, too boring! Relationship is wayyy more beautiful, more dynamic and more fulfilling.

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