Now the men of Israel were pressed to exhaustion that day, because Saul had placed them under an oath, saying, "Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening--before I have full revenge on my enemies." So no one ate anything all day, even though they had all found honeycomb on the ground in the forest. They didn't dare touch the honey because they all feared the oath they had taken. (1 Samuel 14:24-26 NLT)
I remember growing up in my dad’s household. There was one rule above all other rules: “You live in my house. You live by my rules.” Mom and dad didn’t have a long list of overbearing or unreasonable rules. If anything, their rules served me, my growth, and my development as a man. When I was going through it, though, I didn’t always see it that way. I would struggle with the reasons for the rules and whether they were necessary or not. I would also struggle with whether there was any benefit in following them.
But Jonathan had not heard his father's command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey. After he had eaten it, he felt refreshed. But one of the men saw him and said, "Your father made the army take a strict oath that anyone who eats food today will be cursed. That is why everyone is weary and faint." "My father has made trouble for us all!" Jonathan exclaimed. "A command like that only hurts us. See how refreshed I am now that I have eaten this little bit of honey. If the men had been allowed to eat freely from the food they found among our enemies, think how many more Philistines we could have killed!" (1 Samuel 14:27-30 NLT)
Jonathan didn’t follow a house rule. To make things worse, his father was king. So now he didn’t follow a kingdom rule. That made things even worse. We need to remember, though that house rules are not the same as the LORD’s laws. Our “kingdom” rules are not the same as God’s Kingdom rules.
Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, "You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32 NLT)
This is why Traci and I work hard to make a distinction between our house rules and His Kingdom Rules. When our children have their own household, they can decide which of our house rules to take with them. We pray, teach, and hope that all of God’s Kingdom Rules go with them. In this way, God’s Kingdom comes and God’s Will is being done in one more place on earth just as it is in heaven.
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.(2 Corinthians 2:10-11 NIV)
Another sign of God’s Kingdom here on earth is Grace. Grace simply means “gift.” When we break a house or Kingdom rule, justice demands the appropriate punishment. When we turn against one another, justice demands retribution. Justice is concerned with balancing out the scales to make sure everyone is “even.” Justice seeks to find fault, place appropriate blame, and then to dole out the punishment that is deserved.
Grace is concerned with a bigger picture. Grace does not let a person off the hook for their wrongdoing, but is willing to work with the person to move them closer to Kingdom living. Grace meets people where they are and then empowers, equips, and encourages them to walk together with God.
In our household, we had a house rule. Everything was dad’s fault. We just need to figure out how. At first, it was a game used to get our younger children to stop picking on each other, tearing one another down, or trying to get one another in trouble with us. The game worked in those younger years. They had fun trying to figure out how this whole mess was dad’s fault. The second part of the rule, though, was a part of the grace: now, where do we go from here.
It was an experiment we tried those many years ago. Today, looking back, it seemed to work. Our approach to the breaking of house rules made us more and more of a family – more and more of a team. We still have times when we want to lash out at another, but more often than not we work to understand one another’s perspective. More than that, we work to understand God’s perspective so we can all move closer to Kingdom living.
Just recently, my twentysomething young-adult child was remembering a story from the early years. She said, “I remember that (the thing we were discussing) was your fault. I mean, it was actually your fault this time, not like the other times. You admitted to what you did. You apologized and we figured out how to move on from there.” She learned about more than justice. She learned grace and how to walk together with God.
How about you? Do you care about God’s Kingdom Rules or house rules? Which are more important to you? Which do you teach to others? When people break the rules (either God’s or house), are you concerned about justice? Are you a person of grace? Do you fight the right battles?