I love to play games. Board games, card games, dice games, word games. And of course, my beloved Mario Brothers. I even started a Game Club with my friends at work. We would eat lunch in a conference room and blow off steam with a lively round of Nertz. I like the competition, the strategy, the fun. But here’s the thing. I’m a stickler for the rules. (Not shocking for those who know my profession is tax compliance.)
Yes, I’m one of those people who pulls out the instructions and reads every last line. My family and friends roll their eyes and there are heavy sighs all around. Everyone gets so antsy – squirming in their chairs, refilling their snack plates so they can leave the table while I drone on and on and on. I get it. It’s boring and we just want to skip to the fun part. But as soon as there is a conflict, everyone is scrambling for the rules!
They can complain all they want, but the truth is, the game just goes better and is more fun when everyone knows the rules and plays by them. I’m not saying rules can never be changed or bent. There are rules that can be enhanced and some that can be relaxed and still be within the parameters. But there are certain rules that are so core to the game, if you change them, you’re just not playing the same game anymore.
As I watch our world, playing out on 24/7 news channels, I can’t help but wonder what happened. Has the deck been stacked against us? Maybe we got antsy and skipped the instructions completely. Perhaps we went to go fill our snack plates so we wouldn’t have to listen to our Bibles or our pastors or priests droning on and on and on. Or did we change the rules so much over time that we’re just not playing the same game anymore?
We are dealing with everything from school shootings to terrorist attacks to riots to reality-show elections. Whatever this game has become, it’s time to go back to the instructions, because this just isn’t fun anymore.
What is there to argue over that can’t be resolved with the instructions? It shouldn’t be this hard. We were only given ten commandments. Jesus even made it easier to remember and boiled it down to two. When you follow these two commands, the rest of them come naturally.
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
Whatever round of the game we’re playing, we need to check our next move to see if it follows these basic rules. Because the game is eternity, and following these instructions is how you win.
Of course, it would be easier if everyone was interested in playing by the same rules. I have to accept the facts – many people don’t know Who created the game, don’t care about instructions, and don’t believe eternity is at stake. I don’t get to just kick people out of the game for non-compliance. So how do we play when not everyone is in agreement about the rules?
We could start by admitting we need some help.
I remember when my kids were little and I first started teaching them card games. Old Maid, Go Fish, Uno. I loved to see their faces light up when they would win. In fact, I loved those happy grins so much that I would sometimes throw the game. Don’t worry, they now know how to strategize and we’re working on how to lose gracefully. But back then, I would make sure they knew which cards to “fish” for and I wouldn’t play my tough cards unless I knew they could beat them.
I’m certain God loves us with even more intensity than I love my kids. I know He loves to see our faces light up when we win. He’s not afraid to let us learn by losing a few hands, but He also has a lot of powerful trump cards He would love to let us go fish out of His deck. The reality is we have to make room in our hand for them. We can only hold so many cards, and we have to discard the ones the world gave us if we want to win this game.
The truth is there are players at our tables who are more than willing to burn the instruction sheet, while stacking their decks with all kinds of tricks to use against us. We are in a time of conflict and we are scrambling. The only chance we’ve got is to stick to the rules and let God deal our cards. I can’t think of a better time than now to read over His instructions.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ~Psalm 32:8 (ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)