Family Rules

Chances are many of you have something in your home that lists Family Rules.  It may be a wall hanging that looks similar to the one on the front of the bulletin today, it may be a black board or white board with a list developed at a family meeting, it may resemble the rules set down in Cheaper by the Dozen the original or Cheaper by the Dozen the remake.

They likely address acceptable actions which help the family meet their particular needs for keeping everyone safe and healthy while providing for ways to maintain and deepen relationships within the family.

In a family where everyone works and goes to school on the same schedule, rules may call for all chores to be done when everyone gets home in the afternoon.  In a family where schedules vary and someone may need to be sleeping at 3 p.m., vacuuming or clanking dishes may not be the best thing to do as soon as you get home.

Always say please and thank you.  Always tell the truth, are usually part of a family’s rules, but priorities, ideas about what respecting parents means, and if everyone is expected at the table for dinner, likely vary from home to home.

There are Family Rules and grandma and grandpas and Family Rules at grandma and grandpas.  There are Family Rules at mom and dad’s and sometimes Family Rules at Mom’s and at Dad’s.

Sometimes they seem rigid and sometimes flexible.

But even with the difference, for the most part, rules are there in an effort to keep everyone safe, share the responsibilities of keeping a household running, and to help us understand a little about what it is to interact with others outside of our homes.  They are gifts we give each other to help us function together and to develop relationship, while developing our own identities.

Even the rule about taking out the trash can prepare us for the parts of our jobs we don’t like much, but must do so that we are able to do the parts we love.

Rules are gifts of teaching one another of how to be in relationship even when facing conflict.

The people of Israel in this passage from Exodus were under the Family Rules of their Egyptian masters.  Those rules designed to benefit the slave owners, not those they enslaved.  Now free from those rules, developing a system of order to connect them to each other and to the God who brought them out of Egypt was critical to maintaining that freedom.  God provided what they needed each step of the way:  Their means of escape, the food and water in the desert, and guidelines for how to live together peacefully.

Without the gift of God’s rules, the Israelites only had the examples of their captors to set up their way of living and working together.

The new Family Rules set the Israelites’ attention on the powerful Love-filled, one true God and on looking out for others before themselves.  In so doing, God provides a guide which allows all to live in peace and to be the unique persons and community God called them to be.

The top ten list of how to live well all about upholding the basic human rights and dignity of other people, providing clear concise basic, easy-to-remember principles for what it means to live in community with others.  Linking our relationship to our Creator God with our relationships with other people.[1]

All reminding us of God’s vision for life as it should be and can be.[2]

Martin Luther saw in each rule God’s grace and mercy.[3]

Grace in God’s reaching out to us with a plan of salvation, Grace in the freedom from looking for personal worth or power in possessions, wealth, position, or weapons.

Grace in being in relationship with God and others.   Not judging the value of others by anything other than that God loves them and wants them protected as much as God loves you and wants you protected.

Family rules offering worth to a people who have only known slavery to those who saw them as expendable.

Jesus simply summed it up, we live out our love of God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Jesus modeled what living the family rules looks like.  He cared for the children, the poor, the outcasts, the Jews and the Gentiles.  He used the rules to love, even though he could have used them to judge.  He directed us to live with a spirit of love.  Those who sought to destroy him were met with forgiveness.

When someone is baptized in this church we promise to model our lives so they may grow in faith.

That includes living the Family Rules in the sanctuary, the fellowship hall, the parking lot, where we work, play, and study, by what we do and what we say.  It means looking out for each other and for others in our community and beyond.

This week the Missions Team voted to distribute the Hurricane relief offering three ways.  A gift to the grandson of a member of this congregation who is rebuilding after the hurricane.  A donation to Hurricane relief in the United States through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and a donation through UMCOR to disasters in the world.  They also decided to help support Ken’s and my mission trip to Cuba.  Modeling the family rules.

On Friday and Saturday a number of you prepared food to offer at an affordable price for those coming to HopeFest.  Working together to support an outreach to those who needed to hear a word of Hope in the midst of a world which offers up natural disasters, mass shootings, human trafficking, power struggles, injustice, and more…   A number of people claimed Jesus as Savior, many others shared in prayer for those facing difficult situations.  You modeled the family rules.

Earlier in the week some of you gathered for a time of prayer specifically for all those impacted by the tragedy in Las Vegas and some sewed quilts which offer hope to those struggling with health issues.  You modeled the family rules.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to live these rules.  It takes time, effort, patience, love.  The grace in the rules is God not only allows us to see how we should be in relationship with others, God also gives us everything we need to live in the way modeled by His Son.  As the Ride4Life testimony to yesterday’s audience said, “You don’t have to do it alone.  Jesus is always by your side ready to walk with you.”

As part of the Family Rules God offers us rest.  The Sabbath is a gift to us.  It is not a demand.  In it we find the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and others, we find an opportunity to rest, we find a space where we purposely focus on the family rules so we can live them the other six days of the week.

God gives us this gift of Family Rules out of love.  When we live them, we share God’s love with others, extend God’s mercy in the midst of a world that wants to craft rules that benefit the world, setting one person against another person, one community against another, one set of ideas against another.

We accept the world’s Family Rules when we fall into the pattern of finding fault with one another instead of encouraging each other.  We reject God’s gift when the Family Rules are ignored or used as weapons against those with whom we disagree.

I encourage all of us to look at God’s Gift of Family Rules as sources of grace and mercy to us and to others.  To remember the summary Jesus offers and the ways he modeled how we can live into them.

Maybe Wesley’s 3 simple rules can help us remember the ten we are called to follow.  Do good, do no harm, stay in love with God.


[1] Dawn Chesse Discipleship Ministries Children’s Sabbath

[2] Scott Hoezee Old Testament Lectionary

[3] James C. Howell Weekly Preaching October 8, 2017

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