I work out at Planet Fitness. I don't work out particularly often or exceptionally rigorously, but I do work out on occasion when the cold isn't so cold and the tasks don't tie me to the desk.
Today was one of those days when I drove to Planet Fitness, got out of the car, and walked directly to the one thing I always do at Planet Fitness. If you've never been to this particular brand of gym you won't know that every location includes a section devoted exclusively to "The PF 30-Minute Express Circuit." It's a set of weight machines and cardio exercises you alternate between for a period of thirty minutes. On the wall you'll find a long list of instructions on how to do this properly. There's a red and green light system to help you know how long to do each activity. Machines and boxes for step exercises are numbered for orderly execution of the circuit.
Every time I do this circuit, I follow the rules precisely.
And every time I'm there, following the rules precisely, someone else comes in and messes everything up.
Some people decide they just want to use one machine for twenty minutes (which means I don't get to use that machine when it's my turn). Other people decide they'll go in whatever order they choose (which means I may miss three or four machines). Some people stand super close to the machines and use free weights (putting those machines out of commission).
The circuit only works if everyone using it follows the rules.
Since no one ever does, every time I go to the gym I'm viscerally reminded of the depravity of humanity.
Follow the rules, people!! There's a reason for the rules!
If you know me, you may find this posture amusing. Because I am not exactly a rules person. Just this week I engaged in three or four public rants on the stupidity of city residential housing restrictions. I'm a libertarian who won't register as a libertarian because I don't like boxes. I wear white jeans whenever in the course of the year I decide I want to, and I wear black with navy. I don't like unnecessary rules. But I do like the kinds of rules that, when followed, create peace and dispel chaos.
Like circuit training rules. Or God's rules.
I'm reading in Exodus right now about how to make restitution when your bull boars you neighbor's bull, how not to cook goat, and how to make amends when you mistreat your slave. Sometimes when I read these sections of scripture my eyes glaze over. Today though I was thinking of how helpful these rules must have been to the early Israelites and how hard it is to maintain peace with your brother without rules.
King David will say of the law of Moses, this law about bulls and slave treatment and bride prices, "I run in the path of Your commands." He's able to run, because law simplifies life.* When we follow the rules, we avoid chaos and disruption.
I have this friend who recently got in trouble with the law. She's been making good choices since then, but every few weeks that past mistake births some new set of disastrous consequences. Every other day she's tripping over her prior disobedience, her schedule, plans and desires spilling on the ground like marbles, rolling out of reach.
That's how it goes, isn't it? Disobedience sows disorder.
Sometimes disorder isn't the worst thing. Some rule-breaking honors what's true and good. Some disorder upturns systems or power structures that require upturning.
But some rule-breaking, most, messes everything up. And not just for us. When we break the rules we mess things up for everybody.
This happens in marriage when one spouse commits to submission and the other won't. When one spouse is faithful and the other isn't. When one spouse is vulnerable and the other refuses. Both are punished.
This happens in a family when a child disobeys his parents and gets expelled from school or arrested and now the parents are paying court fees and reconfiguring work schedules and trying to explain to their friends what's happening.
This happens in church life when two hundred people offer grace and three loud people extend hate and those three voices are the only ones anyone hears.
This happens on Facebook when people are discussing something civilly and someone jumps in to be a jerk and suddenly everyone is brought down.
Everyone is affected by anyone's disobedience.
Rules exist for the purpose of harmony.
I needed to hear that today. I needed the reminder that God doesn't arbitrarily assign things to right and wrong columns to test our loyalty or self discipline. God has reasons for rules, one of the prime ones being peace among His people.
*Maybe you're thinking, Law simplifies life for David--the male who's not a slave or a bride being purchased. And you're not entirely wrong. Still, the law does uplift people at the bottom of power structures. And when the law is followed women and slaves in this time period receive much better treatment than outside the law