I've had some great conversations lately with several students from different faith backgrounds about whether some of the more rigid and difficult commands in the Christian faith are actually keeping people away from Christianity. Their idea was that these commands either need to change or Christianity will become either obsolete, irrelevant, or both. I disagreed and offered a different perspective on the purpose of God's commands.
We often teach that behavioral commands like do not kill, lie, covet, lust, etc., are actually given to us to protect us or to give us a more satisfactory life if we follow them. If this is the reason why God gave us behavioral commands then many people will simply "opt out." Their reasoning is "I would rather be a little less safe or a little less happy and do things my way than deal with the struggle and guilt that come packaged with commands." In some ways this isn't so unreasonable.
But behavioral commands are not really for our benefit (although there is fruitful wisdom in many of them). Behavioral commands and our struggles with them help us understand the condition of our heart. They are a diagnostic tool. They prove to us that we are unable to follow the greatest command- "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself." If the great command was the only command we were given then over time we would start to convince ourselves that we are actually keeping it consistently. We would lie to ourselves and say "I AM loving you with all that I have, all the time!"
But God in His wisdom gave us these behavioral commands to show us that we are not the God-centered beings He asks us to be. Using commands, God puts boundaries on key parts of our lives that He knows we will struggle with. Some struggle with the command not to worry, others with the commands restricting sexuality, and others with the command to be honest in business. There is a wide spectrum of commands in every area of life so that each person would find one that they struggle with.
That's right! God designs for there to be a noticeable struggle between His commands and our nature. It pushes us to accept His grace as our only hope!
God wants us to have a command that we don't like, that our nature contradicts, that makes us angry or feels unfair! This experience helps us "bottom out" spiritually. If we found every command of God to be agreeable with our nature, how would we ever know if we are denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him? The struggle reveals to us the nature of our heart and how self-centered we really are. Only after "bottoming out" do we see our spiritual condition accurately and this is the beginning of true repentance and turning to God.
We should be thankful for difficult commands and those with the biggest struggle have the shortest path to "bottoming out" and seeing their heart in its true state. We should not teach that God's commands are centered around "life enhancement" but rather to provoke a struggle that serves as a window into our soul.
...Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. Romans 7:7