“But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:8-9)
Growing up, there was rarely a more frustrating phrase uttered from my parents’ lips than “Because I said so.” I was always a little more than curious about the world around me and was probably the queen of “but, why?” I understand now as a parent that the idea of “because I said so” is supposed to carry the weight of life experience and the benefit of hindsight, something I never had as a kid, teenager, 20-something, yesterday, etc…
Too often I assumed that my parents used the phrase as an excuse not to tell me anything, or not to explain within an inch of their sanity every single detail I felt entitled to. I rarely believed they had experienced enough life to understand the necessary rules within my bounds of a very free and happy childhood.
How often do we think the same way about the guidelines set forth in the Bible? We see things like the Ten Commandments as an arbitrary set of rules that were meant to keep people tied down and riddled with shame and anxiety over their ability to keep them. But if we take a minute to think about the context of those ten simple agreements they are not set up as a decree of subjugation and serfdom but a charter of freedom from both the physical bondage the Israelites suffered for centuries and the spiritual chaos they endured in the polytheistic whirlwind that was ancient Egypt.
They were reassured that there was one God, their God and they didn’t need to worship anything or anyone but Him. They didn’t need the golden idols of Egypt, that needed to be venerated and represented by something that looked worthy, He simply reassured them that He was worthy. The Lord of Lords did not need a physical representation of his glory, he was and is and will always be the I AM. They were given the freedom of rest. The Sabbath was set forth not as a strict semblance of regulatory reverence but as a gift to slaves who had never known a day off for generations. They were instructed to care for their families and each other in a way that upheld the humanity of people over their possessions, giving them the freedom to trust one another with not only their things but with their reputations, spouses and lives.
Later in the books of the law more rules are spelled out, things that seem arbitrary today but were imperative to survival 5,000 years ago. I remember as a kid, joking about the verse in Deuteronomy that gives instruction about where to relieve yourself (23:12-13). Or the seeming obsession with chewing cud in Leviticus that set forth kosher food laws (11:1-47). But I, like so many others, see those and so many other rules as a great big celestial “Because I said so.” However, it’s not like God could sit and explain the microbiology of sewage contamination or clean animal butchery. Instead of believing that the Maker of all things might have a longer view of existence than we do, we regulate the regulations, making mountains out of mole hills and shaming all those who would dare to cross a line. We have taken the freedom given out of love and made it into a war against those who disagree or attempt to discredit the authority of the rule keepers.
We as Christians need to remember this when people outside the church ask those “why” questions. Before they can understand that the I AM is worthy of believing his “Because I said so,” we need to remind them He had a purpose. Instead of bombarding unbelievers with the ideas of blind faith, maybe we need to open our eyes to the bigger picture and see that the answers to many of the “whys” were there all along. The God we serve is not a bully who tells you what to do without any context or consequence, it was for freedom that He set us free. It is not our place to make His freedom fit our rules and answers, because He said so.
Ali can be reached via email here.