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Don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

Monday 28 November

Colossians 2:16-17

Throughout history, religious people have been famous for their rules and regulations. We see it particularly clearly with the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. They lived according to the law of Moses but also to layers of other regulations which had been introduced by rabbis over the years. It isn’t surprising that in the early Church, one of the greatest challenges came from those who wanted to impose complicated regulations upon the
new Christians. These came from many places but particularly from the Gnostics, whose religion was built upon complicated rules about eating and drinking and the observance of special days.

Paul was not saying that all rules were bad. A well-ordered family, church or society will only work smoothly and harmoniously if there are rules. But Paul knew people would never find forgiveness and salvation by just following rules. The message of so many religions is that you will achieve liberty and harmony by following a certain number of rules. But Paul decisively rejects this. At their best, rules will only ever be shadows of reality. They will never set us free because only Jesus can do that.

I am quite sure that you and I live our lives according to certain rules. They may have come from other people, or be ones that we have devised because they work well for us. What we need to ensure is that we never imagine our rules are the way in which we earn our favour with God. Rules may be helpful, but they cannot save us. Only Christ can do that, so we need to keep our eyes fixed on him.

In what ways have you found rules helpful in your Christian life, and in what ways have they been a problem?

Lord Jesus, I thank you that life is found in you and in you alone. Amen


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