Rules are vital so we know what is expected of us. This has been the case from the beginning. As a parent, we have to have rules to create structure for our kids. But knowing which rules must be absolute and which need to be bent, is vital. One of the best parenting skills is knowing your kids well enough to know when to strictly enforce certain rules and when to allow for flexibility.
Many people have looked at God’s rules and wondered why He doesn’t allow flexibility more. Starting with the Garden of Eden, His image sake broke the rule once and was cast out. That doesn’t seem very flexible at all. However, looking at time through an eternal lens, that fall was a necessity to the bigger picture.
But God does have plenty of places where His flexibility is shown greatly. One example is that King David (a man who committed adultery and then ordered a murder to cover it up) is seen as a man after God’s own heart. Another is where Saul (a man who dedicated his life to eradicating the followers of Christ) is made to be the most influential evangelist of the New Testament.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this flexibility flows from Jesus’ own lips. When the Pharisees came to ‘test’ Jesus again, this time their approach was around the topic of divorce. Ironically, every time the want to test Jesus, they turn their attention to an area of Jewish law they themselves know have serious flaws. They have no problem with the law itself but use such ambiguousness in the law as a way to maintain power and as a way to attempt to trap Jesus.
“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.”
Jesus points out how great the Love of the Father is by showing why He allowed Moses to write such a command. Because God knew our hearts were so hard, he allowed Moses to write in an exception to the rule, a way out. But Jesus did not end there.
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Mark 10:6-9)
Yes, God had allowed Moses to create an escape clause, but that did not mean that God’s desire was to have an escape clause. In God’s design, this union of one man and one woman is designed to create a brand new single flesh. So how does this relate to my first point of a parent’s flexibility? It’s called Grace.
I have four children. I have the same ‘rules’ for all children in my house but my expectations of how those children will respond to those rules is different. I know which children have a hard heart towards which rules. If I lived by the exact same expectations for each of my children, that would show no love or grace at all. But knowing their hardness of heart towards certain rules, I can allow for grace.
Only because of the Grace that He has shown me, can I return that same grace to my children in a way that encourages instead of condemns.