The church has had a messy relationship with rules over the centuries.
This is ironic because Jesus gives us just one rule: to love God and one another. It’s amazing that humans and the church find it so complicated to follow one rule.
We are human. With that we are wont, at times, to follow the whims and fancies of our in-the-moment desires. This is positive when it helps us to flourish and trust who we are made to be as God’s children. It is less positive when it leads us to lose sight of others, ourselves as children of God, and/or God. We are good at complicating the simple life lived with God, and so, the church and people have tried to regulate how we live the Christ-centered life. The specifics of these recommendations are always being revised for the present culture and situation, but a Rule of Life, in the Christian tradition, is intended always to point our lives back to Christ in all that we do so that we may live more fully with God and be more effective instruments of Christ’s love for the world.
Rule in Latin is regula, which means guideline. Rules of life are guidelines others give to us or we give to ourselves with the intention of living into the fullness of who we are created to be in God’s image. They are not meant to be oppressive, although they often get misunderstood as such. They are not meant to be lived out in the exact same way for each person, which is challenging for some. Rules are not a way of producing cookie-cutter people who all look and act the same. The Rule shared today is not about making us all into Presiding Bishop Curry, or even saints old and new, but about leading us all towards a closer and faithful relationship with Jesus. That changes all of who we are– all we think, say, and do. A rule of life challenges us and guides us towards our most loving self, not someone else’s.
What Bishop Curry recommends is nothing new. The Rule of Saint Benedict, written in the 5th century, has influenced most modern-day Rules, and prayer, reading, worship, love, and witness all can be found within the Rule of Benedict and other Christian Rules of Life. They call us back to the basics we need to hear again and again. As humans, we will fall short of living the Christ-centered life, but as ancient monastics shared, “we fall and we get back up, we fall and we get back up.” Rules help remind us how to get back up again.
It is important for us to receive Rules of Life together, because while a Rule of Life may seem simple, it is easy for us to forget and community helps us get back up. Community, especially Christian community, is not meant to only accept us and make us feel good about who we are now but also to shape us to be most fully who God has made us to be. At times, we need each other’s loving nudges to continue on or change our ways, even when our initial reaction to such a nudge is, “Don’t push me!” The gift of community is not just to let us be whoever we want to be, with all our whims and fancies, but to form us into who we are called to be in Christ. If we have faith in Christ, that is the most loving, joyful and whole life we can live.
The church has had a messy relationship with rules over the centuries because they have been misused and misunderstood. We have one divine rule—to love God and one another—and regulas, guidelines, like the one shared today, help us follow the great commandment with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We need help, and we acknowledge that from our baptism, with God’s help. God’s help often comes to us through community. A shared Rule of Life is meant to lead us closer to Christ and when we live closer to Christ the world around us changes. We become more effective agents of Christ’s love.
Prayer, reading scripture, worship, love and witness. These are simple reminders for a better life. These are simple reminders intended to challenge us and help us grow in Christ and in love with one another. “Do not be afraid, only believe.” (Mark 5:36) All of us can live by a Rule of Life if we remember and believe who is at the heart of it. Rules of Life are shared for each of us, together, to move closer to the Jesus-centered life.