December 29, 2011 by Stacy McDonald

“I Know the Rules!”

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And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Why is it so much easier to see sin in other people? I mean really. A child can trip over his own feet running to tell you about the infraction of another child; but, that same child will stand amazed that you would even imply that he may have sinned in the situation as well.

When my daughter, Melissa, was little, she was an excellent rule keeper. She could rarely be found doing anything “wrong.” And she was very good at informing us of all the wrong things others were doing. I often felt torn on whether or not to rebuke her for tattling. After all, who else would do such a good job of spying on my other children! I wanted to know what was going on when I wasn’t in the room!

Once, when Melissa went to spend the night alone with her great grandparents, she apparently had “tattling withdrawals.” In the morning, my grandmother was going to run some errands and left my daughter with my grandfather. As she was leaving, Grandma Betty asked Grandpa David if he could make the bed because she was in a hurry to leave.

When my grandmother returned home a few hours later, she found my daughter waiting for her at the door. It seemed as if Melissa was on an urgent mission. With a serious expression on her face and wide eyes, my daughter informed my grandmother, “Grandpa didn’t make his bed!” My grandmother chuckled and said, “Oh really; well, I bet you made your bed.” My daughter said, “Oh yes, I know the rules!” My grandmother has difficulty telling this story without laughing hysterically. She recalls my daughter’s wide-eyed expression and serious tone, and turns to tell me, “She had to tattle on Grandpa because she knows the roools!”

Are you ever like that? I know I am. Sometimes we know the rules so well (at least the ones we like) that we are hypersensitive to how well others follow them…or not. At the same time, we can’t stand the thought that we too may be rule breakers… or lawbreakers. In fact, we can’t stand it so much that we aren’t willing to examine our own hearts and motives. We want to focus and dwell on how others have offended us, how “they always do this or that,” how “at least we don’t do that,” or how relieved we are that “we’re not as bad as so and so.”

We forget that the sins of others have nothing at all to do with our own obedience. In fact, sometimes God wants to teach us how to respond in a godly way to the sins of others. Usually it’s easy to “not sin” against someone who is being nice to us. But how do we respond to someone who gossips about us? How do we respond to a husband who “doesn’t understand,” or a boss who isn’t “fair”?

And how do we confront a brother who is in sin? Are we finger-waggers? Do we take a little bit of joy in the sins of others because it makes us feel good about ourselves? Do we do a little “happy dance” when we hear about some hidden sin in a person we just “knew” wasn’t as good as they looked? Are we good rule keepers, but not good love keepers?

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3–5)

And, if you have indeed already removed the plank from your own eye, how does God want you to reprove your brother of sin? He gives us a few words here on both the spirit and the method of action:

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. Luke 6:31

Don’t we want to be reproved of our sin (even if it’s painful) by loving correction? Nothing is more convicting than to see sorrow (not glee) in the eyes of the one who corrects us.

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy… ( James 2:13)

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:36–38

We need to remember this! The same measure we use in “dealing with the sins of others” will be measured back to us. Stop and think, am I willing to put myself under the same judgment I am dishing out? Notice the process in Matthew 18:15:

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.

You and him alone. That means keep your mouth shut. Don’t share your brother’s sin, even as a “prayer request,” with others. Go to your brother.

If he hears you, you have gained your brother. (emphasis mine)

This too is important. It reflects what our ultimate purpose should be in confronting someone of sin – to gain our brother. If we truly want to see him repent and be restored to a right relationship with God, then we will confront him in such a way that he is most likely to hear us.

If we exaggerate his sin; if we are eager to publicize his transgressions; or if we are accusatory, self-righteous, and hostile in confronting him of his sin, then our goal is to punish, not to see him restored. We in fact, are in danger of the type of judgment described in Luke 6:38.

If this is our heart, we are more focused on how our brother’s sin hurts us, angers us, or makes us feel more righteous. If we deal with the sins of others this way, we are not truly focused on seeing them restored to a right relationship with the Lord. We are more focused on ourselves, than on seeing God glorified.

So, do you “know the rules?” Or do you keep them, so that you may better love your neighbor and glorify your God?

Melissa is now in her twenties and still “knows the rules;” but, she has learned how crucial it is to examine her own heart first before confronting sin in others (though she needs a reminder now and then, just like the rest of us!). She’s also learned the importance of receiving and extending grace.

Related Article: Sin Grown Up

Reformation piety is a piety that breathes the very air of repentance. It sets aside the camel-swallowing, gnat-straining propensity we all have of looking at our own sins through a microscope and looking at the sins of others through a magnifying glass. We instead ought to be, as Luther was before us, haunted by our own sin long enough to cry out for the grace of God. – R.C. Sproul Jr.

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2 Responses to ““I Know the Rules!””

  1. Michelle says:

    This is an awesome post, Stacy. It seems more convenient to rule keep at times rather than get to the heart of the matter.

    Have a blessed New Year!

  2. Harumi says:

    Hi Stacy! ^.^
    I’ve found your blog a few weeks ago and I just loved it…Really! =)
    I’d like to ask your permission to share your posts with people I know, but I’m brazilian so I would have to translate them beforehand.
    I’m waiting for your answer, eagerly!

    Yours truly,


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