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3 Rules for Life from a Command Sergeant Major

There are a number of different “Rules for Life” publications out there. Dr. Jordan Peterson has a best selling book, 12 Rules for life, and any blog probably has something of the sort. However, with so many lists roaming around the internet, which is the best or easiest to follow? There’s no real answer to that question, but that’s not going to stop us from providing another one; this one only consisting of three very simple maxims. 

CSM’s Rules for Life:

In September of 2023, my unit spent a month at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. While there I was able to do the Chaplain thing and spend time talking with a number of our different soldiers throughout our footprint. During some of our leadership meetings, our Command Sergeant Major dropped some bits of knowledge and, most importantly, his “Big 3.” Those big three are what we’re calling our 3 Rules for Life. 

1. Treat People Right 

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Then why do we make it so hard? It seems so hard to even have a simple discourse in today’s society. Every time there is a disagreement of sorts it always results in name-calling and more division instead of conversations and the potential to learn something. If we are to treat people right, then we have to start by respecting who they are and the value they possess. 

One interaction that Jesus had with a man of the Law shed light on how we are to treat people. The lawyer asked, “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” And Christ answered, “How do you read the law?” The lawyer answered that the Law says to love God and love people, to which Jesus agreed, “…do this and you will live.”  The follow up question from the lawyer was, “Who is my neighbor?” and from there Jesus was able to provide us a lesson on the Good Samaritan. It is in this lesson that we are told that regardless of someone’s cultural, political, or ethnic background we are to treat people with mercy, grace, understanding, and dignity. And, that stems from the image of God they were created in. 

The Imago Dei, or Image of God, doctrine lays the foundation for Rule #1. In the Creation account of Genesis the foundation is laid for this doctrine. In the opening pages we read, “The God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This is our basis of how we should treat our neighbor. Every person we encounter is an image bearer of God and should be treated the same. 

Rules for life

2. Do the Right Thing

Again, the beauty lies in the simplicity of the maxim. Yet, even the simplest of truths seem to be the hardest to carry out. We live in a time of moral ambiguity. We seem to have moved beyond a standard for good and bad and have instead started to define these by a person’s individual rights. We stand for individual rights, something the founders of America believed are what made us free, but to use them as the moral code for right and wrong seems to be an awfully slippery slope. 

Maybe part of the reason we have strayed from a standard for right and wrong is because we are turned off by the little three-letter-word, s-i-n. We don’t discuss sin as an issue anymore because it doesn’t make us feel good. But the reality is the truth of sin has infected us all. More than that, sin’s definition carries within it a standard. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). There is a standard for right and wrong and it is found in the nature and character of God. Sin, in the Greek, is often translated from the word hamartia, which is an archery term that means “missing the mark;” exactly what Romans 3:23 tells us. 

Continuing on this thought, James also recorded for us this little tidbit: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). But what is the right thing? I think that is the bigger question. As awesome as it would be, we don’t all have a little cricket sitting on our shoulder telling us right from wrong. And while there is no Jiminey Cricket for us, we do have a conscience that does instruct and inform us if we’re doing right or wrong. How is this possible? it stems from Rule #3: Live Your Creed.

3. Live Your Creed

In the Army we have creeds that help us to remember the “why” of what we do. There’s the Soldier’s Creed that reminds us “We are American Soldiers…I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.” There’s also a creed for Chaplain Corps, Non-comissioned Officers (NCOs), and the Army Rangers. A creed can and should serve for us as a guide post, a True North on a compass, a place we look to as a reminder of our standard for living. 

There are many religions that also have creeds and ways of life. But, as we believe that truth is truth is truth, we adhere to the Apostles Creed, which distills for us the doctrine of Scripture in a succinct manner: 

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Potinus Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” 

As a Christian and a father, one who is supposed to lead and disciple his family, there is no better way for use to keep our focus than to live this creed and make it flow from our daily living. 

The Bottom Line: 

At the end of the day, there has to be something for us that guides our life. For us, that is always going to be Scripture. However, as we go throughout our day we may look for rules to guide our lives. Live these three rules, embed them into the fiber of your being, and watch the world around you change. You’ll be a better man for it and maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to see our communities around us change as we love our neighbors like ourselves.