Why God Gives Us Guidelines
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | April 13, 2016
If God is love, why would He tell us that what we’re doing is wrong?
This question has surfaced on forums and Facebook feeds. It’s an underlying objection to Christianity, to the church and to God Himself. It asks: “If God is love, why would He condemn me for what I’m doing? Why would He say that some people are sinners and some are not?”
The question is honest; it reveals the reality of the human heart, which naturally wants to follow its own inclinations. The very existence of God calls us to an accountability outside of ourselves—and that can be frightening. In a world that tells us to do what feels good, God’s presence belies a gnawing truth: what feels good might not actually be good. It might not be the right thing to do.
Christianity this removes this moral ambiguity. Instead of leaving us to wonder what is right and what is wrong—determining truth based on feeling—God gives us guidelines for life. He gives us an objective truth against which we can measure our decisions. His direction gives clarity and purpose to our lives, but it also contains a weighty responsibility: If God has standards, we will be measured against them.
This ultimate standard is one of the primary reasons why our culture objects to Christianity. God’s truth requires the surrender of our human will to His divine one, allowing Him to direct us into holiness. The world wants no part of this submission to God—an attitude that began in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. Why would God gives us guidelines if He knew some people would refuse to follow them?
Everything God does has a purpose, and that purpose is entwined with who He is. Since God is perfectly holy, there can be no sin in Him. But God is also the very definition of love, and as such, He longs for a relationship with people. In order to have a relationship with people without tarnishing His perfect nature, humans must also be perfect. In the beginning, this was God’s design.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in Genesis 3, they used their free will to choose sin instead of God’s way. In doing so, they tarnished themselves (and all their descendants) with the mark of sin, separating themselves from God and His perfection. God could not accept them in their sinful state or He would no longer be perfect, no longer able to execute unbiased justice or unconditional love. Adam and Eve bore the consequences of their sin, and God began to make a way: a plan of redemption for the human race, and a way to preserve the relationship He so longed to extend.
But in order for us to have a relationship with God, He had to outline His expectations for human behavior. God’s law served to teach man right from wrong. The spirit of God’s law was always true justice and brotherly love: to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds and strength, and to love others as ourselves.
God’s law—outlined in the Ten Commandments and the regulations of Leviticus—exposed human sinfulness. Even today, God’s standards reveal just how much we fall short of perfection! In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices atoned for this failure. The blood of animals temporarily covered the sins of man, but they had to be repeated again and again every time a sin was committed. When Jesus was sent to earth, His death served as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice. He covered sin once and for all. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s perfect law and perfect love, calling us to the highest of standards—and enabling us to walk accordingly.
God gives us guidelines because without them, we can’t meet His perfection and we can’t have a relationship with Him. His law is based on His love for us; it’s not designed to be limiting or burdensome. His law guides us into a life that pleases Him so we can have His approval and rejoice in His love. This is the gift Jesus gives us when we understand why His blood was poured out on our behalf. Viewed in this light, the question is not “If God is love, why is He telling me I’m wrong?” but “Since God is love, how can I love Him back through obedience?”