When we think of rules, very often what comes to mind are the many things that we are not allowed to do because of these “laws” that are in place. For example, “No using of handphones during lessons” or “You must dress formally when you come to office”. These are just some of the examples of rules that we may be familiar with in our place of study or work. As a result, the image that many people have of rules is a jail cell that limits freedom. The more rules there are, the smaller this jail cell becomes that further limits our freedom. While it is true that rules usually lay the law for certain prohibitions. It is good to ask the question “Do rules always limit freedom?”.

Like many people I too had subscribed to the imagery of rules being a jail cell limiting my freedom in the past. I mean I remember that I could not even use my phone during recess when I was in secondary school because I was limited by the school rule but once I went to junior college and there was no longer such a prohibition of using the phone, except during lessons; I felt so much more freedom in how I could decide to use my phone. This led me, like many others, to question the need and challenge the rules since they seemed so contrary to my freedom. And so began the times I secretly went on social media while hiding my phone behind my book, under the desk, in my pencil case, etc.

However, a course I attended challenged me to re-think this imagery of rules being a jail cell. Take the example of a standing fan. In order to turn it on, we would:

1. Connect the plug to the socket
2. Turn on the electrical power by flicking the switch
3. Select the fan speed we desire by either using a remote or pressing the button on the fan itself

These are the steps we would take to operate a traditional standing fan. Yet, these steps are also rules of how to operate a fan. They tell us that, for one, if we do not plug the fan to the electrical supply, we cannot expect it to work. Strangely enough, I have never heard any rational person challenge the above rules on operating a traditional standing fan. In fact, you would probably be given a weird look and asked to find the loose screw in your head if you did. It was through this example that I was slowly being led to realise that rules not only prohibit but they also help provide direction (a part that is regularly forgotten because of how rules are normally stated).

Another example is that of sport. Every sport is governed by rules. If you are a football fan like myself, you would know that the goalkeeper can only use his hands in his/her penalty box. Just imagine playing with someone who claims to be a “goalkeeper” but ran from one end of the field to the other with the ball in his hands before throwing the ball into your goal and claiming that as a goal scored. I’m sure it would be incredibly frustrating and chaotic to have such a player, for he would not actually be playing football. Herein lies another aspect of rules, that it helps everyone to be on the same page, and it is when rules are followed that one begins to have more freedom (as strange as that may sound). How can rules possibly lead to freedom? Going back to the example of the “goalkeeper”, it is only when he learns the rules of football that he can then actually begin playing football, making it enjoyable for both himself and those in the game. It is with the knowledge and adherence of the rules of football that he can develop the freedom of how to go about playing (e.g. which position to play, whether to dribble like Ronaldo or Messi, etc.) and can begin learning how to be a good football player.

Perhaps the next time we think about rules, especially those that God gives, we can try to remember that when God gives us rules for life, it is not that he wants to restrict our freedom but rather, He desires to give us more freedom. It could be that with rules for life, we can then begin learning how to live life well and make it beautiful for both ourselves and those we love, just like steps for operating a standing fan and the rules of football.


Shared by Jordan Hong