Study after study show that children play out farther when there is a fence around the playground. The fence lets the children know where it’s safe to play and where they are allowed to have fun. When the fence is gone the children stay closer to the teacher afraid that they might wander too far. Likewise in our own lives when we play by the rules we know what the boundaries are for what is good. Morality simply fences off all that is good from all that leads to brokenness, regret, or resentment.
One of the reasons people cite for not believing in God is that the rules of religion will keep them from a good time or the good life. Christianity teaches something different, we believe that God has told us where the boundaries of goodness are. He has put a fence around what is best so that we might enjoy it to it's fullest. This is what we call morality.
Yet, we're suspicious (Christians and non-Christians alike) that God might be holding out on us. We see the fence around what is good and wonder what is on the other side. The old word for sin was "trespass" because it meant someone went beyond the realm of goodness. The irony is that jumping the fence of God’s goodness is like jumping a chain link fence to see what’s on the other side.
The other side is full of brokenness and regret. Rules are there to make sure everyone has a good time it’s true in little league, board games, and football games, as well as in board rooms, classrooms, and bedrooms. When we follow the rules we’re happier.
Most people don’t equate following the rules with happiness. So, they break the rules and jump the fence. Whenever that happens another fight breaks out whether it's at the little league field, in the classroom, boardroom, or bedroom. We hear people cry out “That’s cheating! That’s not fair!” It's no wonder to me that many men regret their extramarital sexual encounters because they feel they used their partner, while many women regret the same encounters because they feel they've been used.
God gave us morality (rules for life) to maximize our enjoyment of life and all creation. God wants us to enjoy life the morning after as much as we do the night before. He wants us to live life free of regret and full of joy. This is the kind of life the author of Psalm 119 lived. This psalm (which is the longest chapter in the entire Bible) is an acrostic poem dedicated entirely to the joy of knowing and living according to the law. May we live our lives in such a way that we come to know the full joy of living according to God's rules.
Psalm 119:43-45 (NIV)
Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever.
I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.