Saturday, May 8, 2010

Exceptional Lives Are Not Built on Exceptions

“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy…” (Gal.6:16)

Rules do not rule out exceptions; but when exceptions become the rule, then your life is unruly.

I hope this little “Salle saying” doesn’t sound like double-talk to you. Perhaps I can explain what I mean.

Someone once told me about a young adult who becomes very dissatisfied if there are not enough “party times” in the week to keep him or her sufficiently entertained. In the case of this individual he (or she) has reached an age where this is impractical and a definite hardship on those around him (or her). This is understandable in a child, or even in early teens, but to see this in an older person gives us a picture of someone living a life where exceptions are the base, and real life only the fill-in. In the real world, life is meat and potatoes; fun is dessert. When you reverse the two, it’s not healthy.

But I think it is also possible for Christians to succumb to the same philosophy when it comes to their Christian lives. For instance, the writer of Hebrews admonishes us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together with other believers (Heb.10:25). Church attendance is a basic rule for the child of God. Are there exceptions? Of course. Sickness, transportation problems, unforeseen occurrences or legitimate obligations—to name a few. But when the exception becomes the rule, it’s not healthy.

Here’s another: We know from 1 Corinthians sixteen, along with the example of Israel (Mal.3:10, etc), that our tithes and offerings should be used for the furtherance of the Gospel and the maintenance of that place (and those people) where we are fed and nourished spiritually. But are there exceptions? Yes, as pointed out to us by none other than the Lord Himself, when He reminded the Pharisees that David took something meant for the temple and used it for his own need, and the need of those with him (Matt.12:1-3). Was this something David made a habit of doing? No, it was an exception. But when the exception becomes the rule, it’s not healthy.

I’m wondering, too, if the propensity of some Christians to live merely from one mountain top experience to another would not fall under this category, also. Unless a church service is high decibel, heart-pounding (not to be confused with heart-moving), with “some new thing” (Acts 17:21) from the preacher, they don’t feel as though they have really been to church. If God is not answering so-called "big prayers" for them, or if they are not reading the newest devotional book touted to be life transforming, they are apt to become bored with the Christian life. It is as if the eternal life they claim to possess needs periodic resuscitation, and the well of living water within them has sprung a leak.

All of us enjoy and look forward to those times of refreshing, when God steps into our everyday with a fresh glimpse of Himself; but part of what makes these times so precious is their very uncommonness and even unexpectedness. To consider our lives as children of God to be less than optimal if we are not always in the throes of ecstasy is to be striving for a life resting on the shaky foundation of exceptions. And it’s just not healthy.

It was said of the rich man in Luke sixteen that he “fared sumptuously every day.” This man, whose end was hell, reminds us of those among us who take those things meant to be exceptions and build their lives around them. Rules are given as a norm. Some of them, under grace, may be subject to exception on occasion. But when the exception becomes the rule, then the rules have changed.

And that is surely not healthy.

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