The word “obedience” can make us bristle. It can feel harsh and rigid, caged in and dripping in drudgery. "Obedience" can make us wonder if we will lose all joy for the sake of duty. This mindset is somewhat a result of a culture that nudges us in every possible way to "chart our own course", to "be our own boss", to "depend on no one". So, when someone asks us to obey, we bristle - or at least hesitate - and understandably so.
Then, where does this leave us with God? Ultimately, living as a Christian means living a life of obedience. Right? And if “drudgery” is what comes to mind when we hear “obey”, I see a big gap between how I am actually going to live out my faith. Who wants to follow a God into a life of drudgery? Not me. This makes me wonder... maybe we need to rethink this word “obedience”.
Both the Old and New Testaments tell us that the chief command for us to obey is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Isn’t it interesting that the number one thing we are to do in order to obey is to love? How oddly simple. Jesus Himself says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” This one is even better, in that IF we love God, we WILL keep His commands. It sounds like the obedience part is inevitable. How delightfully straight-forward. We don’t even have to get all wrapped up in what to do, when to do it, how to do it. Rather, just LOVE God.
Still, the human side of me panics a little at this "love God" command. What does that mean? How do I do that? And why, God, do You care so much if I love You? Why is that so important? (God loves it when we ask these questions.) The Book tells us plainly that we love because God first loved us. That is, we love God only when we grasp how much we are loved by Him. So, when He asks us to love Him; He is asking us to grasp how much we are LOVED by Him. You, me, each of us - are the apple of His eye. He adores each of us. Given this, when I ask God how He would like me to love Him, I think might answer, “Sit with Me. Just sit.” “Look for Me...I am all around and I am looking right at you.” “Let Me show you how much I love you.” “Walk with Me.”
It turns out that the invitation to a life of obedience is an invitation to a life lived loved. Obedience is not about me checking off a long list of duties; and obedience is not about me going off by myself to get things done for God, so that I can be 'a good Christian'. Obedience is about me choosing, day after day, to live life in relationship with Jesus. Walking with Him, looking for Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, living loved by Him. They said that Noah “walked with God”, and that walking led to a big ol’ ark. Moses begged that he would not have to go alone into the wilderness and God said, “My presense will go with you” and a people were saved. You and me, we have no idea what is on the other side of our walking with Jesus, of our obedience. And I am glad that we do not, because it might feel like duty or drudgery. But what if in our walking, in our simply living loved – God is building another ark, saving another people?
“The Lord does not give me rules, He makes His standard very clear, and if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love some one else in competition with Him, viz., myself. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey Him, I must obey Him; and when I do obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents, altogether unnoticeable and mean*, but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I shall discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God’s Redemption comes to the point of obedience in a human soul, it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ, the Redemption of God will rush through me to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the Reality of Almighty God. ” — Oswald Chambers