“…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules…”

“…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules…”
or
How a good choice goes bad
or
Why I don’t speed in school zones

Movies, being art, can sum up a lot in one good quote. It’s kind of like “one picture is worth a thousand words.” Me and mine have always loved the great movie lines. One of them is from the Pirates of the Caribbean series: “…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules…”
What a concept this expresses!

It pairs very nicely with 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “but test everything. Keep what is good.” To get right to what I believe (and the point of today’s post): The Bible is filled with guidelines on what is good – but it works in a strange way, mostly from an individual level. “Good” is almost not something that is without exception. ‘Rules’ do not allow for exceptions. ‘The Law’ does not allow exceptions. Hence, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines”. (Movie Quote! “Don’t say ‘hence’ anymore.”)

The guideline this verse expresses to me is: Actually READ the Bible for myself. Every day. Not blindly, but with consideration for how to “use” what I discern in my day-to-day life. (Prayer upon what I’ve read is also a part of the process.)

The thing about faith in Jesus Christ and what one can get from spending this kind of quality time in God’s Word is: that what it says is ‘good’ is generally the same for all of us – but specifically because it’s meant to be applied on an individual level first. (That’s where the school speed zone comes in. I certainly hope that we can all agree that each of us is very purposeful and intentional about driving around schools – not because it’s The Law, but because it’s common sense; it’s a good guideline.)

Dare I say then, that even if one does not believe in God, one can still learn much about living ‘good’ from His book? You better believe it! (That I dare say that, yes. Well, that you should believe in God, too, yes, but let’s not go there – yet. What eventually follows time in the Word, I believe, IS faith – but let’s discuss that in another post.)

Frankly, the Bible is available to be that set of guidelines even more easily in this age of technology, when a good quote (or a good guideline) from ‘The Good Book’ is never more than a good Google away.

SO, what happens to make a good choice go bad? When guidelines become rules. When we stop thinking and deciding, and, instead, do whatever we do do because The Law says so.

Consider Joshua 24:14 The Joshua said to the people, “Now you have heard the Lord’s words. So you must respect the Lord and sincerely serve Him… Now you must serve only the Lord.
:15 “But maybe you don’t want to serve the Lord. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve… But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
:25 So that day Joshua made an agreement for the people… it became a law for them to follow.

I find the differences between :14 and :15 very interesting, going from “you must serve” to “you must decide” to serve. The former presents as Law; the latter more as guideline. Dare I suggest then, that when we “don’t want to serve the Lord,” we’re actually having more of a problem with being told what to do? Yes! Because we don’t want The Law, we really want our freedom of choice. It may seem like semantics, because the result doesn’t change – we still drive carefully in the school zones, but we’ve chosen to make the good choice. We’ve tested and kept what is good. “It became a law for them to follow” means it became something they didn’t have to and weren’t expected to think about. And that unthinkingness becomes habit. Bad habit.

Obviously, for something like our speed through a school zone, there’s really not that much to think about. But for the bigger issues in life (like, say, our political outlook or our very faith in a creator), our decision has a much bigger impact.

Here’s 1 Thessalonians 5:21 from the Phillips version:
Never damp the fire of the Spirit, and never despise what is spoken in the name of the Lord. By all means use your judgement, and hold on to whatever is really good. Steer clear of evil in any form.
or
Know why you drive slowly through the school zone.
Note: No school-zone-speeding tickets were torn up during the writing of this post.

Thanks for reading!  As always, please feel free to share this post. I love to hear your feedback – not just on what was said, but how it was written, too.

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