Rules to Live By

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When Ray and I were first married, he was in graduate school in history. We became involved with the college students at our church. Through the well-meaning efforts of another graduate student, the college group began associating occasionally with a rules-oriented organization.

Some of us were drawn to this organization because they were having phenomenal success in bringing college students to faith in Jesus. We wanted to learn more about what they were doing.

Ray and I and others in our group went to some of their seminars, hearing speakers espouse particular methods–methods that worked. However, we quickly saw red flags. One of the first things we noticed was that all the college guys dressed alike; so were the girls. While it was refreshing in the mid-seventies to see college students dressing conservatively and looking nice (and not like hippies), it was pretty strange to see all these clones. Dressing neatly was fine, but weren’t there many types of nice clothes? Weren’t there many conservative styles? Why did they look so much alike?

The organization had a strong leader who trained an elite group of hand-picked college-aged men. We noticed that when these college guys spoke, they sounded like the main guy–not only in their messages, but even in the way they talked. How strange.

We learned that the organization had rules, rules, and more rules. The students were plugged into a hierarchical system. They were paired up with someone who “discipled” him or her. These disciplers were discipled by people over them who were discipled by people over them. The students had to be involved in a certain number of activities each week. They were encouraged to spend their time with their peers in the organization and discouraged from going home to their families very often.

Ray and I are grateful that we were never part of the organization or of any of the many satellites that spun off from it. However, we still heard enough of the rules to be negatively influenced. For a few years, we carried a lot of guilt, because we knew we fell short of their rules. We grieve when we remember that we sometimes laid guilt on others because they weren’t following the rules.

In 1985 we moved to a city that was home to one of the satellite groups. In a few years, that group had a major crackdown with people being chastised for not “toeing the line.” Several got fed up and left. Many came to the congregation where Ray was preaching for emotional and spiritual healing. We heard such sad stories about the oppression that these sweet people had suffered. Because of our knowledge about the organization’s teachings, we were able to comfort and help those who had left.

The “great rule-giver” who led the organization went the way of so many rule-givers. He succumbed to Satan’s temptations to break genuine rules–ones that God gave–and resigned in disgrace.

We humans are comforted by rules. When the rich young man came to see Jesus (Mark 10), he wanted to know what “other rules” he needed to obey. But rule-keeping was not what Jesus wanted. Jesus wanted his heart. Jesus wanted his life. We like checklists: if I do this, this, and this, I’ll go to Heaven; if I do this, this, and this, my kids will have a great education.

Please don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that your homeschool will be a success if you simply follow certain rules. God wants your children to have a relationship with Him. He wants them to trust Him. He wants them to follow Him. I love the old hymn, “Trust and Obey.” That pretty much sums up the Christian life, doesn’t it? Trust and obey, but be sure Whom you trust and Whom you obey. Don’t mindlessly trust leaders or speakers or experts in homeschooling and don’t obey them. Trust God. Obey Him. Teach your children to do the same.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
Psalm 118:8


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One comment

  1. What a perfect way to start my day. Thank you for the encouragement. We couldn’t keep the rules even if we tried. Having children of my own brought that little fact to light very quickly. I actually thought I was a pretty good person before I had children. What a wonderful reminder of why we have a Redeemer! Blessings, Charlene!

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