Today I was discussing Christian obedience with a friend. He was having a hard time with the concept. He told me that the thought of blindly obeying anyone, even God, makes him want to rebel. Yet his pastor kept emphasizing that the Bible tells us we must obey.
I told him I understood how he felt.
I pointed out to him that God created us with intelligence and a craving for freedom and independence. If God wanted obedient robots, surely He could have done that. But He didn’t. Instead, He gave us minds.
It’s not wrong to use what God gave us.
I pointed out that in the Bible God often compares Himself to our father. Do good fathers expect blind obedience from their children?
How would blind obedience prepare the children for going out into the world?
Children who are blindly trained to be obedient to authority are not independent thinkers. Instead they are vulnerable to any power hungry demagogue.
I could not imagine a loving God wanting His children to manifest these characteristics.
I told my friend, “Instead of focusing on obedience, why not focus your attention on Jesus, on strengthening your relationship with Him? As you grow closer to Him, you will be more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”
I described two different scenarios to him.
In the first, I told him to picture himself sitting in a garden with Jesus and other disciples, as Jesus was teaching. In that scenario, I asked my friend, would it be appropriate to question Jesus?
“Of course,” my friend replied.
In fact, Jesus even encouraged questions to be asked by his disciples in this type of setting. He did not dismiss even the tough questions. This is what made Him such a good teacher. He understood the importance of allowing people to think for themselves, so they could truly embrace not just the letter of the law but also the spirit.
“Now,” I told my friend. “Picture this scenario instead. Jesus is tired. He’s exhausted. He’s been scourged and He is carrying the cross. He asks you for a drink of water. Do you ask him ‘why?’, or do you just obey?”
My friend nodded. He understood that there are times when blind obedience is called for.
“This is why it’s more important to focus on your relationship with Jesus than trying to simply obey Him. Because the only way you can graciously submit to Him is if you trust Him. And the only way you can trust Him is if you know Him.”
“Besides,” I continued. “you need to know what response is appropriate in a particular situation, whether considered evaluation or immediate action is called for. You can only figure that out if you’ve established a relationship with Christ.”
My friend agreed that this is the crux of the matter.
When we are in close relationship with our Creator, we are sensitive to the still small voice of the Spirit. We can discern more clearly what God’s will is.
There is a reason that Christ told his followers to give to Cesar what is Cesar’s, but to God what is God’s. While earthly overlords may demand unthinking obedience, Christ gives us the option to question and to test. Even if we disobey Him, He will forgive us. He does not demand from us more than we can give. He wants us to obey Him because we love and trust Him, not because we fear His wrath.
This post was previously published on shefaliohara.medium.com.
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