What's Wrong with Bending The Rules?
Megan is vice president of her youth group and leader of a small Bible study that meets before school. She wants to be a missionary after college. Last week when she had a pop quiz in history, Megan copied a few answers from someone else's test. She doesn't think it's a big deal. She knows she probably wouldn't have passed that test without a little help, and she has to pass to get into a good college.
Shane leads his basketball team in prayer before every game. He and his girlfriend bought each other "True Love Waits" rings for their six-month dating anniversary. So far, they've only kissed and have promised not to go any farther.
Shane loves cruising around in his old car. His buddies think it's cool when he races past the other cars on the road. He doesn't think breaking the speed limit is a big deal. He just hates driving behind slow people.
It's not like Megan and Shane are bad people, or trying to hurt anyone. They're just bending the rules a little.
Bend or Break?
Somewhere along the line, each of us decides just how much bending of the rules we're going to do. We might spread gossip, but not lie to our parents. We might make fun of our younger siblings, but not drink at a party. It's as though we've ranked our behavior on a scale that makes some actions worse than others.
But in God's eyes, sin is sin. Romans 1:29-31 rattles off a whole list of sins, each one as bad as the others. Gossip is as evil as murder, arrogance as sinful as hating God. And James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." Every sin, no matter who it hurts or how bad society says it is, is the same because it separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The good news is that because of Jesus' death and resurrection, our guilt is erased and our relationship with God is restored.
Still, sin has an impact on our lives and our relationships with other people. Take speeding. Not only is it breaking the law, it's also sending a message to others. When we exceed the speed limit, what we're really saying to the people around us is, "The things I have to do are more important than the safety of other people on the road." By speeding, we're putting our own needs and desires ahead of the well-being of others. And that's hardly loving others as we love ourselves.
Doing the right thing is about more than just showing a good front to other people. The Bible is clear that our behavior should be godly no matter who's looking. Check out Colossians 3:23, which says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Jesus even got angry at some religious leaders for being more concerned with what people thought of them than with what was in their hearts. In Luke 11:39-40, Jesus says, " … you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?"
Jesus' words tell us that God cares deeply about our character, no matter who's watching.