If I listen to the Church, is the Church manipulating me or am I obeying God?
On a society level, we all understand the purpose of laws. Why do we have laws? To keep people safe and healthy. We all have a sense of right and wrong and when we see something wrong, we want justice.
What I find interesting, is there are people who are perfectly willing to follow the laws of our government, but when they enter a church, they say the "rules" are trying to impose some sort of control over them. They want to be "free" from the guilt of sin and they don't want anyone telling them what they can and cannot do. But why are these rules established? To keep our souls safe and healthy.
Christians often focus on the warm-fuzzy aspects of faith while ignoring the more unpleasant aspects... or at least what they view as unpleasant. God is love. God is Truth. God forgives. The reality is that we are sinners and we do things daily that greatly grieve our Lord. The rules are not the Church's. They are God's rules. The Church has the authority to execute the rules. They are not meant to manipulate us but to bring us closer to the Lord and to keep us reconciled in the sight of God.
As Christians, we are not free to do whatever we want. Sure, we CAN. But, we are called to a higher standard of living and to fully devote ourselves to the purpose of God. We cannot just sit around. We also cannot throw out the rules we simply don't think we should have to obey for whatever reason. We have to obey God, love others, be kind, gentle, meek, practice self-control and strive to be perfect. The Church is there to help us move in the right direction... to guide us closer to God. So, do we condemn the Church for their standards? If we reject the Church, we are rejecting God. If we reject God, we are going to end up living our lives in sin. When we listen to the Church, we also listen to God and his commands. This does not take away our freedom but encourages our growth in faith and brings us in closer relationship to God.
"He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."