A JOYLESS COMPLIANCE TO THE RULES

Bible Reading: John 8:1-12

The elder brother said to his father, “I have always obeyed you” [Luke 15:29]. Another translation reads, “All these years I have been slaving for you.” He had been slaving – it was not a joy to serve his father! The elder son never did anything wrong. His father didn’t contradict him when his son said, “I’ve never disobeyed you”. He always did what his father expected of him but there was no joy – it was a duty and not a delight!

In his book After God’s Own Heart Mike Bickle writes, “This elder brother would have made a good leader in most churches today. He kept all the rules. He tried very hard, yet he never knew what it meant to enjoy his father at the heart level”. The elder brother’s life was a joyless compliance to the rules but our Heavenly Father wants us to know and love Him intimately, and live life in the freedom and flexibility of His Spirit.

A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus. The religious leaders challenged Jesus by telling Him what the law said, and asking what He would say. These men were religious and rigid without compassion and totally inflexible. Theirs was a hard obedience to the law. On the other hand, Jesus did not condemn the woman but said simply, “Go and sin no more!”

A couple were coming to church, faithfully serving the Lord and taking communion together. The man had been married previously but his unfaithful wife had left him and their two children for another man. The woman was also married and had two children but her husband had left her and refused to sign divorce papers. Neither of these people were Christians. They met in the pub, got together, and had two more children. So now there are two people living together but not married and with six children. One day they turned up at church, gave their lives to Christ and began to serve Him, and each Sunday took communion together. The six children loved going to the Sunday school.

Then someone found out that they were not married! Gossip quickly spread and someone suggested that they should stop taking communion. Another said that they should sleep in separate rooms – it did not seem to matter that all eight of them lived in a three-bedroomed house! Someone else suggested that they live apart – but there are six children and two of the children are theirs together! People demanded that the church leaders take action. We did! We encouraged them to keep following and serving Jesus, and when it was possible to do so have a quiet and tasteful wedding. This family continued to follow Jesus and the church prospered, but sadly about 30 hard and inflexible “elder brothers” left the church.

Questions

What would you have done if you had to make a decision concerning the unmarried who were couple taking communion in church?

Why do you think that people prefer to live by a legalistic compliance to rules rather than in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit?