My friend is not a bad person—far from it! He is a responsible citizen and tries to live a good life. The day he was driving his family on a trip through the countryside, he was his usual happy self and had no intention of causing anyone any harm. Even though he was going a little over the speed limit and the signs warned about passing, he didn’t think it would be a problem passing the slow truck ahead of him. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late. An oncoming car careened around the corner and smashed head-on into his vehicle, killing his wife and two children instantly. My friend survived with only cuts and bruises, sick to death that he would have to live with the knowledge of what he had done.
The road laws just didn’t care that he’d driven so carefully so many times before and that he usually obeyed the speed limits. No one gave him the benefit of the doubt when he misjudged the road ahead that day, even though he’d almost always erred on the side of caution previously. His one mistake cost him very, very dearly and, understandably, my friend never quite recovered.
One thing is for sure: he knows why speed limits and road warnings are so valuable—every day, for every driver, in every situation. He doesn’t see them as restrictions on his fun or fuddy-duddy rules for the overly cautious. He knows with sickening certainty that had he obeyed the signs that day, his wife and children would still be here.
Of course, not all man’s laws are so good or helpful, but what about God’s laws? Did God give us laws that are difficult to keep just to be a thorn in our flesh? Christ said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). When He spoke of “life,” He meant the here and now, as well as the future. That doesn’t exactly match up with the idea many people have of Christianity (that everything that’s fun to do is a sin), does it?
But what “fun” are they talking about?
Is it really still fun when a teenager wakes up with a sexually transmitted disease from a one-night stand? Does a young girl really think extramarital sex is still fun when she finds herself pregnant? And how much fun is it to find out your new baby has AIDS from some previous fun you had or because of some fun your mate was having while cheating on you? How much real joy do you have when you’ve let anger get the better of you and you hurt or kill someone else’s child, mate or parent? How much lasting pleasure are perversion, drug addiction, or alcoholism?
No, like the laws of the road, God’s laws are not to keep us from having fun—quite the complete opposite! Keeping God’s laws are the only way to long-term (actually, eternal!) joy and happiness for everyone. On the other hand, the way of sin is one fleeting moment of pleasure that can turn into long-term pain, sorrow and regrets the next day and the next and possibly for the rest of your life.
You think God was unkind in revealing to us laws that are hard to keep? Is it unkind when a doctor reveals to you that the reason you’re sick all the time is because you’ve been eating poison? Do you think the doctor should just give you something to make you feel better while you keep eating the poison that will inevitably kill you? Just as you can prevent broken bones, concussion or death by respecting the law of gravity, so keeping the laws of God will prevent you from much suffering, because God’s laws reveal the cause of all pain, sorrow and death. Of course we can’t keep any laws perfectly—but there is a time coming when all tears will be wiped away and there will be no more sorrow. It will be a time when God’s laws will be written in everyone’s hearts (Hebrews 10:16, Revelation 21:4)!
God’s laws show man the only way to live abundantly—now, in this life! As Paul said, he would not have known what was causing his suffering had he not known the law (Romans 7:7). And John says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Free from what? Free from bringing pain and sorrow and misery on yourself and everyone around you. Free from regrets and guilt and shame. Free from destruction, pollution, greed, lust, war, murder, disease, perversion, addiction, etc, etc, etc.
So to answer the question above: Do you have to keep God’s laws? Only if you want to be truly happy now and for all eternity!
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