There is a misconception about Christianity whereby non-Christians seem to think that Christians live their lives burdened by myriads of unfair and outdated rules. Though some of these rules are perceived to be admirable and praiseworthy, many others, they think, are simply burdensome and unnecessary. Few would argue that the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is a bad one. But when it comes to the commandments regarding adultery and sexual relations people no longer consider them praiseworthy. Many people look at Christians and scoff that we would allow ourselves to be ruled by Biblical precepts which demand that sex is to be enjoyed only by a husband and wife within a marriage relationship. I would like to take just a short time to look at the relationship of rules to freedom.
America is a nation of freedom. Why is it that this nation is the “land of the free?” Quite simply, it is because the country is governed by a set of laws that guarantee freedom. America is not a nation that is unburdened by rules. Rather, it is a nation bound by strict rules which protect its citizen’s rights and freedoms. Consider a nation that had absolutely no laws; no governance; no constitution. Would that be a land where people would have true freedom? No! There would be terrible chaos and bloodshed and that nation would undoubtedly be a terrible place to live.
I am a Web designer by trade, and as such I need to be able to create. To be a successful Web designer and to create Web sites that are functional and attractive I need to operate within a set of rules. There is a governing body, the World Wide Web Consortium www.w3.org that oversees standards and governance for the Internet. These standards guarantee that every Web page that adheres to them will be visible by every Internet user. They ensure that a novice computer user operating a 4-year old computer will see a Web site identically to an expert using a brand-new computer.
For example, the rules dictate that every Web page needs to have a piece of code at the beginning that looks like this:
That small piece of code tells a Web browser that everything after that tag is HTML code (HTML is the programming language Web pages are written in) and should be displayed as such. Without that piece of code, the page would display only as a list of programming code. Similarly, at the end of the document there must be a piece of code that looks like this:
That “tag” tells the browser that the page has completed. Anything beyond that code will not be displayed in HTML formatting. There are hundreds of similar rules governing HTML coding. As a designer, I have the freedom to ignore those standards and write a Web page however I see fit. The problem, though, is that ignoring the rules will lead to any number of problems. The page may be formatted in a way that makes it very difficult to read. It may display as a combination of properly-formatted text and HTML code. It is even possible that the Web page will not display in any Web browser.
Imagine the headaches if every designer designed his sites to a different set of standards. One designer might create his sites to work only with a specific browser while another might make his work only if a computer is of a certain speed. Needless to say, browsing Web pages would be, at best, burdensome, and in many cases, impossible.
The alternative to operating outside the rules is to create Web pages within the necessary boundaries. When I learn of the rules and operate within the framework of those rules, I have total freedom to create a site that is functional, artistic and useful. I do not think anyone would consider that to be burdensome! On the contrary, it is necessary to have the Internet function with some semblance of order.
The analogy should be clear. God does not give us a list of rules so we can suffer and practice self-denial. God provides rules so that we can live within a good and necessary framework. Within this framework we can find true freedom to live as we were created to live. We see that rules and freedom are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Rules provide freedom.