Why It’s Better for Rule Followers to Surrender to Love

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Rules seem easier. They make sense. Just obey and avoid the consequences. But it's better to surrender to love. God's perfect love that never fails.

I’m a first-born rule follower. I like rules. I understand rules. Rules make sense.

If you do A and B happens and you definitely don’t do X if you want to prevent Y from happening.

It’s simple like math.

Rules are black and white.

And following the rules pleases people . . . especially parents, teachers, and people in authority.

Rule followers understand following the 10 Commandments. And most importantly they have to be careful they don’t fall in line with the Pharisees and obey God to earn whatever it is they believe He can give them.

It’s a little harder for those of us who like to follow the rules to understand the idea of surrendering to love because…

Love is less like math, less black and white.

Love seems gray. Because as imperfect people you and I have experienced imperfect love.

Let me explain – 

Have you ever had your heart broken? Beth Moore asks it this way in Living Beyond Yourself, “Who didn’t love you? Who didn’t love you that was supposed to love you?”

If you’ve given your heart away to someone only to have it crushed; you understand the problem of surrendering to love. You see once you have trusted someone enough to love them if they hurt or betray you . . . your walls of defense go up. A self-preserving decision that says, “I don’t ever want to feel like that again.”

We’ve all been hurt by someone.

And that makes it almost impossible to grow up without some brick and mortar being added to our defensive walls. And that means going forward most of our love relationships will have an element of self-protection and lack of trust.

Too often you and I paint God with a “human” brush.

He asks us to surrender completely to His perfect love . . . we wonder, “Can I really trust His love, or is He just like all the others?”

Add in the world’s adversity and affliction . . . how often have you been asked, “If God is good and loving, why is there so much pain and suffering?”

And the old lie Satan has been whispering since the garden, telling us God is holding out on us and if He really loved us He’d want us to be happy. 

Rules seem easier. They make sense. Just obey and avoid the consequences. But it's better to surrender to love. God's perfect love that never fails.

It’s easy to see how you and I can become rule followers trying to earn a right relationship with God.

In many ways, rules just seem easier. They make sense. Obey the rules and avoid the consequences of pain and suffering. Obey the rules and reap the rewards.

It’s supposed to work, isn’t it?

Even if we don’t admit it . . . many of us hold on to a bit of that belief just in case. (Look at the doctrine of every other world religion that teaches a message of good works to earn paradise.)

There’s a huge problem with that message because we won’t obey the rules perfectly and no matter how hard we try to follow the rules there is no guarantee we’ll avoid pain and suffering. In fact, the opposite is true.

Jesus said, In this world, you will have trouble. John 16:33

And “trouble” sends us right back to the thought, “If God is good, how can He allow..?”

A loving God and a world in trouble can leave you and me with a “crisis of faith.” 

What do you do when you have a faith crisis?

Jesus said we should ask, search, and knock.

“Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Matthew 7:7

Stillness and God’s Love 

Going to God in stillness—asking, searching, and knocking you will find in book after book and page after page. In Old Testament and New…

God’s love has never changed, never faltered. 

“Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6

O my Strength, to You I sing praises, for You, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love. Psalm 59:17

For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5

Rules seem easier. They make sense. Just obey and avoid the consequences. But it's better to surrender to love. God's perfect love that never fails.

God loves first, last . . . always.

God is love. This is how God showed His love to us: He sent His one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through Him. This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent His Son to die in our place to take away our sins. 1 John 4:8–10

He will not love us less if we fail or more if we obey because love is who God is.

You and I don’t need a protective wall with Him. We can trust His perfect unfailing love completely.

And because we can trust Him we can surrender everything to Him.

Surrender to His Love

I used to focus on verses in the Bible that talked about love and obedience.

I show kindness to thousands who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:6

But I had it backwards. 

Jesus, looking at the man, loved him and said, “There is one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” Mark 10:21

Jesus knew this man’s heart. He knew he would choose to walk away, but He loved him anyway. He loved him before he surrendered . . . before he followed.

I pray each day and ask God to help me surrender . . . not to the rules, but to His perfect love. That He would help me simply…

Be still and know . . . Him. Psalm 46:10

Because the more I know Him the more I want to surrender to Him.

I know following the rules seems easier. It makes sense. You and I want to earn that reward. But our loving Father doesn’t work that way. He loves us first and most and you and I can trust Him completely.

Now it’s time for…

Faith ‘n Friends Blog Hop

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Feature Post

I’m excited to share the following posts with you this week.

Goldilocks Issues

by Laura Thomas
@ Laura Thomas Author

Goldilocks Issues


15 Practical Tips for Maintaining Peace 

by Chizobam Idahosa
@ Beautiful in Jesus

15 Practical Tips for Maintaining Peace

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  1. “A first born rule follower” – I feel like you’re telling my story today, Deb! I had never thought of it in exactly those terms, but you are so right, rules seem black and white while simply surrendering to love is gray. Rules seem more dependable at times. Trusting in love seems risky, unless or until we really know the lover of our souls! I’m still learning! Thanks for sharing and for hosting. Blessings!

  2. So grateful for His love, Deb!
    Like you, I was that first-born rule follower – sometimes that worked, but most times, it simply left me hollow and lacking. God stepped in a filled that void with His amazing, all-encompassing love. Giving Him the praise and glory today!

  3. I’m definitely a rule-follower. I read Kevin Lehman’s book years ago, and I’m a first-born … to a T … With all the good AND the bad associated with it. *sigh* I need to surrender to love … Especially in my relationships with my teens. Following Christ’s example is so much better. (I almost typed — it would yield better results. With my mind on “rule outcome”!!!! Arghhhh) uhm … Our RELATIONSHIP would be better!!!

  4. Cheryl Gerou says:

    I love the part that says “You and I don’t need a protective wall with Him. We can trust His unfailing love completely.” That really speaks to my heart. It is too easy too live in the mode of self-protection even with our loving Heavenly Father. This is another good reminder for me. Thank you!

  5. This hits home with me, Deb. I tend to be a rule-follower too (or an “upholder” if you follow Gretchen Rubin). But I’ve learned through the years, too, that love overrides everything. You speak for me here: “I used to focus on verses in the Bible that talked about love and obedience. But I had it backwards.” May we continue to put Love first!

  6. Oh, yes! I always say, “I’m a first-born, rule following, people pleasing, how high can you set that bar? woman!!
    Love this post. I can so relate! And, there is nothing sweeter than the deep love of Christ!!

  7. Deb every post you write seems to resonate with me. I could sit for days and just soak in all the truths you write about. Thank you for ministering to others. I’m raising my hand here. I’m was the kid who tried to follow every rule and when I got called out for breaking a rule that I didn’t even know I broke—I was devasted and embarassed. BUT GOD! But God loves us when we fail and when we obey. He loves us first. I love the verse in Mark when it says “God loved him” and it says that before he followed. The love of Jesus allows us to fully surrender and drop into His arms of unconditional love. I’m so thankful!

  8. Oh, yes, the rule follower in me has gotten hurt quite a few times because it’s all supposed to work out the “right” way when we follow the rules! Or … not so much. God’s ways are greater and often misunderstood by us. The hurt is incomprehensible, but then again, His lavish love is, too!

  9. I was reviewing Psalm 46 on the way to work this morning — and now here you are this afternoon reminding me to Be still. I especially love the rationale the psalmist provides: The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge!

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