Exceptions to the Rule

Ever wonder where certain expressions and sayings come from? I do. I often look up the origin of sayings I hear, many times finding that the expression is being used in a wrong or unintended way. One of those expressions that gets used differently than its original form goes something like, "that's an exception to the rule." Wikipedia explained it this way, "The exception [that] proves the rule" is a frequently confused English idiom. The original meaning of this idiom is that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes that a general rule existed. [http://goo.gl/I3GqV]

Not long ago, as I was reading through Genesis and then Hebrews, I realized there are exceptions to the rule. In a way, they are also exceptions that "prove the rule." Isn't it interesting that only a few generations after creating everything and calling it good (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 25)—including the first man and woman—God was ready to destroy mankind. It says that God, "regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart" (Gen 6:6). The good news is there was an exception that proved the rule—Noah (Gen 6:8). What's the rule? That people are intrinsically selfish and rebellious towards God.


"Noah had God's approval and was a man of integrity among the people of his time. He walked with God" (Gen 6:9 GW). This is what made Noah an exception to the rule. In the beginning of Genesis there are two other people who were similar exceptions to the rule—Abel and Enoch (Heb 11:4-5). This is what is needed in the world today—people who are exceptions that prove the rule. People who stand out as light in the midst of darkness.


It's easy to get discouraged about the condition of the world—the economy, empty political rhetoric, the wicked things humans do to one another (from human trafficking to brutal murders), and even when our own life seems futile amidst all of this. But discouragement comes from focusing on the wrong things. This is what makes these men exceptions that prove the rule—they focused on the right thing, that is, they focused on God.


This is what made these men stand out. They had a personal relationship of trust with God and believed in Him, while surrounded by those who did not. We live in a time of broken relationships, disloyalty and evil. So did they. What characterized them as exceptions? They had a personal trust in God. They had an integrity of character. They were examples of God's goodness. This is what it takes to be an exception that proves the rule.


Keep in mind that this may cost you dearly. People, even those closest to you, may not understand and even ridicule you. But the world around us will only change one heart at a time, one person at a time. This is the nature and great promise of genuine faith—"No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6 GW).


So where do you stand? Where do you want to stand? Are you an "exception," or are you among "the rule?" It's not what we do, but who we are that determines whether we become exceptions that prove the rule. When our life is under the rule of God, we are no longer subject to the general rule.