07 December 2013

Rules...and What Our Hearts Beat

Rules rules rules.
          rules Rules. rules
                   rules. rules Rules

Acclimation is about learning rules. What are the patterns? How does everyone do it? Why don't I blend in? How do I tie this correctly? It sounds like I'm saying the exact same word he is, so why is he laughing at me? Why am I the only one standing here?

Culture is a compilation of rules. It's a measurement of perfection, an unspoken list of priorities, and an attitude--a manner, a sense, an appetite--that emerges when you know and accept and follow those rules.

It sounds familiar, doesn't it? We've had rules all our lives--as children under our parents, as students under our teachers, as workers under our employers, and as citizens under our government.

And just as all those situations require a certain attitude to experience peace, so does acclimation. You can take me as an example. I know the rules of Seoul. I know the driving rules, the walking-on-the-sidewalk rules, the standing-in-line-to-checkout rules, and even the let-others-touch-your-baby rules; however, if I don't have the correct attitude about those rules, then I don't experience peace.

Following the rules of charades helps me to buy kimbap from our favorite place.

Yesterday, an older man cut in front of me while I was in the middle of paying for my daughter's doctor appointment. Seriously, I was holding the pen to sign when he nudged me aside and handed the nurse his won, expecting to be obliged. He was. I waited. At that moment, I had a choice. I could abide by the rule (let the elder go first) with an accepting attitude or with a bitter attitude, and my choice would decide the beat of my heart. Literally, it does figure into how fast my heart beats, but I also meant that figuratively. For whom does my heart beat? Why am I even here if I can't love and accept the people with whom I live? For what does my heart beat? Is it for compassion and relationships, for service and mercy? Or is it for selfishness and my rights?

You can obey the rules without being part of the culture. One is outward and the other inner.

There is one other place we face rules: religion. Here also we can learn what's expected and elevate ourselves because of our adherence to the Ten Commandments or our emulation of the Beatitudes. But just as with cultural assimilation, you can obey the rules without changing the beat of your heart.

The Pharisees did. Matthew 12 tells one example of when they put rules above compassion. After being accused of breaking the Sabbath by these religious men, Jesus said to them, "If you had known what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent." Later, Jesus fully exposed their hearts, saying to them: "you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:27-28).
Jesus rebuked the rule-keeping Pharisees.
So our sole pursuit cannot be to follow the rules, as useful as acclimation is--both in a culture and in religious circles. We need to change the beat of our hearts to ring out compassion, humility, and grace.

Wherever we are, let's learn the patterns. Let's adhere to the unspoken list of rules. But our heartbeat must be the people--choosing to love them, serve them, and accept them.

And with our religion, let's learn the way of righteousness. But our heartbeat must be the Person--choosing to bow low in worship and sync our hearts to His beautiful melody of mercy.


  1. Learning the rules is not nearly as important as learning why we follow them. It's the royal law of scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Thanks for the wonderful post.

    1. So true! Thank you, Helene.


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