Grace, Freedom, and the Rules

The unpredictability of a summer schedule with kids home from school and no routine to depend on left me feeling a little bit crazy one week over the summer, so I resolved to create consistency elsewhere. I somewhat randomly chose a passage of Scripture to dwell on every day for one week. The same passage, every day. No hopping around elsewhere in my Bible or pulling out a devotional—just reading my selected passage, thanking God for the words, and asking him to show me something new each day about himself and myself. These are the verses I selected:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. —John 1:16-17 

I frowned at the page after the first read, puzzled by the words despite their familiarity from years and years of church attendance and Bible studies. I’d heard that first sentence a lot. It’s pretty and flowy, and on its own, sounds like a nice place to sit and rest, you know? After all, it’s grace upon grace—not just grace, but more grace on top of that! Okay, great. But what do I do with that? I moved on to the next sentence and began to focus on the bigger story—the eternal perspective.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

God gave Moses the law to give to his people. It was rigid to say the least, and as we see in the Old Testament over and over and over again, the punishment for disregarding it was severe. Yet it was God’s grace in the form of rules to live by. It was a gift.

I think of one of those things parents love to say that kids loathe: “I’m doing this because I love you.” We want our children to stay safe from harm, so we establish rules; they have to eat their veggies, look both ways before crossing, and keep their seatbelts buckled. We’re not trying to make them miserable—we’re trying to keep them alive, for Pete’s sake.

God does this for us, too.

But there’s more. We also get Jesus. Grace upon grace. Another translation phrases it “grace in place of grace.” Jesus is God’s grace to us in the form of a person we can know and relate to, fulfillment of his promises, the One who stood in our place and took the punishment we deserved—death—so that we could truly live.

We have the Word, rules to live by. We have Christ, fulfilling the law and taking the punishment for the rule-breaking we will inevitably do—grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And we have the Holy Spirit to be with us always, intercede for us, and help us discern the hard places.

This was big for me to grasp, and in the moment understanding began to dawn on me, I reached over from where I’d been sitting in bed and shook my husband’s shoulder, startling him awake, because I needed to tell someone this thing that had never really clicked for me before. It’s gift upon gift upon gift—and as much as I like to convince myself I’ve somehow earned it by doing the right things, I couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t deserve any of it.

God’s rules and his grace work together. They don’t limit us. They set us free. 

This is a challenging concept for a girl who actually likes following the rules. (A lot.) So I’d like to take the month of October and look back at snapshots of my life each day, finding the places where those stories intersect with ideas about rules, grace, and freedom. It will probably be a little messy, which makes me uncomfortable. I might struggle some days to hit “publish” on work I know is unfinished and on thoughts I’m still processing. But I’m feeling expectant that this exercise will be a good one—both in writing and in better understanding God’s love.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

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