It is without regret that I inform you that the church I was raised in liked rules. No slacks. No drinking. No movies. No dances. No divorces. No cigarettes. No dice. No cards. No profanity. No slang. No fun...just kidding.
Actually, we had lots of fun. I don't recall ever feeling a great deal of loss because of the rules. My parents negotiated and let me attend Dean's prom and then my own. I was irritated at the time to be sure but it was not life-changing. I do regret not having dancing at my wedding because I love to dance and my wedding reception was the pits. Seriously, the pits. A little booze wouldn't have hurt either. Again, I kid.
The rules kind of put us a spiritual playpen and saved us from hurting ourselves. Raised in this environment, I didn't consider rebellion. It would have been against the rules. I didn't break curfew or try smoking. Certainly never drank alcohol. I did wear slacks, but not to church events. Married my high school sweetheart as a 19 year old virgin. No regrets.
Christianity in the early years needs to be cushioned with rules, I think. Like the nation of Israel; minus law we self-destruct. As we grow from spiritual childhood into adulthood, so our ability to self-govern needs to grow. Just like a little kid needs rules in kindergarten and a high school senior should know that you raise your hand before speaking.
Now I don't keep all the rules from the old days. Then again, some of the rules I no longer consider "rules" but I still live the same way. I do go to the movies, judiciously. I don't drink, it just seems silly.
I don't smoke because it's gross. I wear pants every day.
I dance because it makes me happy. I am not divorced because it causes pain.
I don't play cards because if you do, you are for sure going to hell wearing gasoline drawers.
I don't think God wants us forever tied to him by rules and fear of punishment. Just like I don't want my kids to obey and hate me. Growing up means the relationship matures to one where I want to please God. I like the heart-feeling of knowing I'm living as close to holy as I can get. I'm not afraid of falling down so much as afraid of not getting back up.
It is not fire-escape Christianity that drives me. It's the utter spiritual joy that comes from leaning my heart toward Christ that makes me ask him,"what do you want from me?" It's the soul-deep peace in the middle of a life that can rattle your teeth that I want.
I want to be grown up enough to step away from rules into a relationship, and find myself closer to the Lord as a result.
Romans 2:29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.