Years ago, I attended some management training on working with people. A concept was introduced to me that has stayed with me ever since.
The trainer started by making the statement: “Everyone has an internal rule book”.
She went on to explain the rule book is constructed over years, based on one’s family of origin, childhood, life experiences and personality. Her belief is that all through life, we carry this book subconsciously, adding, amending and archiving as we grow and mature. We don’t realise we have it until a rule is broken. When rules are broken, we can get upset and indignant. What makes it worse is often the other person doesn’t even seem to care, though realistically they have no idea they’ve done ‘something wrong’ because our rule book is private and personal.
Basically, she was saying we have internal, hidden expectations on people and their behaviour.
I remembered this when Pastor Brendan preached recently in our I AM series on: I AM declared the righteousness of God in Christ.
One of his points was that when we understand we have a right standing with God through Christ, it changes the way we look at other people. He threw out this statement: “I allow people to work at becoming like Christ at their own pace”.
BAM! That was such a reminder to me in that moment.
The thing is, subconsciously, we may each have an internal rule book, and believe our rule book is right. Perhaps it’s the way we think things ought to be done, people ought to be behave and particularly for those of us in a relationship with Christ, what faith and the outworking of that ought to look like.
I don’t think I consciously walk around thinking, “I’m perfect, everything I believe is perfect and if people just do what I say, it’s all going to be perfect”. I’m convinced though that at times, I do walk around with my internal rule book in hand, becoming the judge, jury and executioner when something or someone violates ‘my rules’… all in the privacy of my own mind.
God shows us a different way, and Pastor Brendan highlighted this again for me.
Galatians 6:1-3 (NIV)
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
I become self-righteous when I believe my rule book is the only way to live. Christ desires us to adopt His rule book of first GRACE, then truth. I think when we do this, we soon learn the only rule that really applies is – all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable (1 Corinthians 10:23).
Self-righteousness says YOU SHOULD (according to MY rule book).
Christ-righteousness says YOU COULD (and grace has got you covered either way).
This journey of becoming more like Christ can be long, hard and sometimes lonely. It constantly calls us to rewrite our rule book to align with Christ’s. Thankfully we have a never-ending source of grace to do it!
Let’s cheer each other on and give each other the room to conform to His image.