Sometimes life’s warning signs can really get on your nerves, can’t they? A few years ago my family and I were vacationing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For the entire time that we were there the red “No Swimming” flags were flying, meaning that we were not allowed to get into the ocean. Now, some people go to the ocean to soak up the rays on the beach or to build sand castles or to collect sea shells. But others–like me–go to swim in the ocean, which means that red flags are a real disappointment.
The truth is, though, that the “No Swimming” flags were there because someone knew more about the situation than I did. For people who like to play in the ocean, body surf, and battle the waves–again, people like me–the water looked very inviting. It looked like there was enough wave action to make it quite fun. I could not see, of course, that there was also a very strong rip current, and swimming out in the ocean would have been very dangerous, possibly even life threatening. Fortunately, those people who knew more about the realities of the situation and the possible risks took the time to post the flags. The flags were not there to ruin my fun; rather, they were there to protect me from potentially serious consequences.
Life works much the same way. Our world is filled with warning signs. Some are so redundant that we see them all the time and do not think much about them, like the “Do Not Enter/Wrong Way” signs that we see all the time to prevent us from going the wrong way down a road, against oncoming traffic. Others are seemingly ridiculous, like the warning on irons not to iron clothes while wearing them. (I suppose someone actually tried that once, resulting in this now-universal warning). Probably the most well-known example of a ridiculous warning is the one that now graces cups of coffee purchased from fast food and other coffee shops–“Warning: Beverage is Hot.” Odd that this would require a warning, given that people purchase coffee fully expecting it to be hot. Indeed, they would be disappointed if it was not hot. Other warning signs, like the “No Swimming” flags or “Bridge Out” signs, as two examples among many, are there to protect people from dangers they otherwise would not know were there.
Parents, and schools, operate the same way. Rules and policies are in place for children and students because the parents and school administrators know, from experience, that there are some things that children can do and some things that they cannot do–at least not without getting in trouble or even getting hurt, whether that hurt is physical, emotional or even spiritual. The children/students do not always like those rules, of course–but then very few of us like all the rules we have to follow.
The Bible is like that, too. God provides, through His Word, many warnings and cautions and even commands about what we should and should not do. As is the case with the red flags at the beach, those biblical instructions are there not to rain on our parade, so to speak, but to protect us from dangers and consequences we may not know are there. Just like someone knew more about the rip currents than I did, God knows far more about human behavior and potential consequences than we do. Red flags, and the inability to swim in the ocean may have resulted in a vacation that was not as fun or exciting as I had hoped. Considering the potential alternative, though, I should have been grateful for those flags.
The trick thing is that sometimes people can ignore rules and seemingly get away with it. Other times, other people ignore rules and suffer serious, if not life-ending, consequences the very first time. We never know, though–which is why the rules are there in the first place: to prevent us from finding out, the hard way.
Like anyone else, I sometimes ignore the warnings and go ahead and do my own thing. In the end, though, it always turns out that God was right…and He always will be right. We just have to heed the warnings and remember that they really are there for our own good. And we can have much more fun by following the rules than we ever could by flaunting them.