Rules of the Game

On January 20, 1892, a YMCA worker named James Naismith designed a game to keep the local hoodlums busy and encourage exercise, teamwork, and camaraderie. It went well beyond its intended purpose. Today, this game is a tool for international communication, a rallying point for countries during the Olympic Games, and a multi-billion-dollar marketing machine. Names like Jordan, James and “Magic” were made famous (and rich) in this sport and by mere virtue of their name, increase the value of a product four-fold. And, no matter where one comes from, basketball speaks a universal language that can be understood by nearly every country on the planet.
One thing that contributes to its universal appeal is the rules. Regardless of where you go, with only minor variations, the rules are the same. Of course, no game could be played without rules. It would be silly, even absurd, to decide that each basket one team makes counts two points, where the opposing team could make that same basket for three. Or, that the out of bounds lines only applied to one team, where the other team could dribble back and forth over those same lines with impunity. It is only fair that the rules apply equally to everyone. That’s what makes the competition fair and entertaining. If there were no rules, there would be no game.
Odd isn’t it, how simple (how insultingly simple) such a principle is; yet when religion becomes the issue, all bets are off. We understand what a double-dribble is because the rules are plain, but in religion, if one were to break the rules, it is assumed if one is sincere, it doesn’t matter; we’re “safe” because “God loves us and He wouldn’t send poor lil’ ol’ me to a nasty old Hell.” You see, we don’t have to answer to consequences since we’re “Christians.” If we believe ourselves to be saved, the rules don’t apply.
Well, that’s nonsense. The rules do apply to all and God will hold all responsible because He has rules, and His rules are fair, equitable, and reasonable. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). John reminds us, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). So, if we are going to win, we must play by the rules. If we play by the rules, we will win, for Christ said, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Get on the winning team, play by the rules and you’re guaranteed a win!
Jeff Sweeten