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The Importance of Knowing the Rules
by Robin Self
Most people who read my blogs probably know me best as being “the preacher’s wife”. But what they may not know is that for a lot of years I was another kind of wife.
I was an official’s wife.
Not “official” as in an important “government official” who rides in limousines and has “people”. But the kind who spends hundreds of hours a year in a minivan, eating gas station food, traveling to various sports complexes and gymnasiums, for very little money, in order to be yelled and cursed at by outraged fans.
Yes, for over 2 decades, my husband Jeff was a high school and college basketball official and umpire. I don’t have many photos to share from back in those days, since that was an era when you actually had to have film in a camera. But I have a few digital ones from his last seasons of umpiring, after his knees no longer allowed him to run on the hardwood for 3 hours a night. (Did I mention I LOVE a man in uniform??)
I gleaned a LOT throughout those memorable years. I can say without boasting, that I probably knew the rules better than anyone in the stands, and probably most coaches. It was I who would drill Jeff for hours so that he could pass the yearly 100 question official’s exams. I knew the intricacies of basketball. I understood that the INTENT of the rule was what mattered when making a call. Looking back, I can see that those years as the official’s wife taught me a few things that are relatable now to my life as the preacher’s wife.
Knowing the Rules Helps You Make the Correct Call
I see this all too often today in Christianity. People within the church will be confused about something that is said or taught because they don’t know “the rules”. Similar to how a basketball rules manual is the final authority in a basketball game, the Scriptures are our “rule book”. They are the ultimate and final authority over everything in our lives.
I can’t tell you how many times my husband had to bring out the rule book to show an irate coach where he was misunderstanding a call that was made. He could turn right to the page where that particular rule applied. How? Because he KNEW the book by heart.
As Christians, we must be able to do the same with Scripture. We need to know the Scriptures so well that when we hear teaching that is in error we recognize it, or so that when someone is wrongly arguing a biblical point, we can show them, in love, where they are misunderstanding or misusing it. When someone invariably tells us “not to judge” sinful behavior, we need to know the INTENT of the Scripture so that a solitary phrase being quoted out of context can’t be used against us.
Are we studying the Scriptures so diligently that they are imprinted on our hearts? Just reading the Bible every so often and knowing a few verses isn’t enough. We must study it in context, so we have the actual truth and INTENT in our hearts. Not just a bunch of verses we can pull out at random so we can argue our narrative.
One example that comes to mind is when those in the social justice movement use Revelation 7:9 to tell churches that their congregations need to be more ethnically diverse, because that’s what heaven is going to look like. This is a clear manipulation of the text used to try to convince believers that their churches are guilty of racism if multiple skin tones aren’t represented. And sadly, masses of people in the church are falling for this nonsense hook, line, and sinker!
We MUST be able to recognize a lie like this when it is presented to us. Deception has a way of coming across as convincing to those who haven’t put in the time to recognize it. But anyone who consistently studies and puts the truth of the Word in their heart won’t fall for this mumbo jumbo. Knowing the rules is imperative!
Knowing the Rules Helps You Be Objective
I can’t count the times I would be sitting in the stands watching Jeff referee a game, blissfully anonymous to those around me, listening to fans yell about a “bad call” that had been absolutely correctly made. It always amused me that two teams’ fans would see the same incident two completely different ways. One side would see an offensive charge, while the other side would see a defensive foul. They couldn’t both be right. But the reason the same situation was seen two different ways was because neither side was seeing what happened objectively.
If there is anything I remember distinctly when attending those many ball games, it’s that, because I knew the rules, I could see clearly if Jeff had made a call correctly, or if he had blown it. (Of course that was an extremely rare occurrence!) I could be objective about what happened on the court because I had no skin in the game. The outcome didn’t matter to me. My judgement wasn’t clouded because of my bias.
In the same way, we can’t allow our biases to cloud our judgment when we need to be corrected, or when our favorite Bible teacher is being pointed out as teaching error. As difficult as it may be for us, we should welcome loving biblical correction when we are acting or believing wrongly. Our end goal should be to walk in truth. If we are doing things right, we are in a continual learning process throughout our Christian lives. We will never know it all, and when we come to the knowledge that something we’ve always believed isn’t correct, we should be willing to give up that belief or tradition in favor of what is biblically sound. Sometimes it isn’t easy to say, “I was wrong”. But it’s necessary for growth.
We also can’t be so enamored with our favorite Bible teachers or conference speakers that we are unwilling to listen to any criticism of them. I used to be the biggest Beth Moore fan ever. At one time I wouldn’t listen to any criticism of her because I didn’t WANT to hear it. At that time my love for Beth was more important to me than hearing the truth.
But then I began to look at the issue OBJECTIVELY. I decided to, with an open mind, research and study the information that was out there and let the chips fall where they may. If the things that were being said were true I didn’t want to keep foolishly defending her. I am thankful that God opened my eyes to be able to see the gross error of what she was teaching. He allowed me to see how my bias had overshadowed the truth. I also discovered how important it is to make sure I know what the Bible actually says rather than just trusting what I believe to a “Bible teacher” who has a convincing way with words.
As a preacher’s wife, I even do this when my husband is preaching. If I have a question about something he says, I go search it out myself and we will talk about it. While I believe he is faithful to the text, it doesn’t mean that he can’t get something wrong. What’s wonderful is, he WANTS me point it out if I have questions. He has also been able to clarify things for me that I had wrong. Once pride is out of the way, and we become objective learners, we will want the truth no matter what.
When we have the “skin in the game” of loving and supporting certain Bible teachers, especially publicly, we can be blinded to what may be right in front of us: the fact that they may be teaching falsely. It can become more important to us to preserve the idol we’ve created than to care about the truth. But when we are willing to be objective and are passionate about our “rule book” we can’t help but want others to be just as passionate. And knowing our Maker’s book can affect someone’s eternal outcome of either accepting a false gospel or believing the only true saving gospel of Christ. And that’s a game outcome we care about!
Robin is an SBC pastor’s wife who enjoys doing ministry life alongside her husband Jeff. They have served in churches from urban Long Island, New York, to the woods of Southeast Georgia. They are now back home in their native Oklahoma where they have been for the past 13 years. They are new empty-nesters, with 3 grown children, Jordan, Jarrett, and Jonah. Follow Robin’s blog, A Worthy Walk, and connect with her on Twitter.