The word obedience is often looked at as a curse word in this day and age. Popular culture tells us to disobey authority, to challenge the masses and be an individual. This way of life leads to self centered chaos in our community and our homes. I am not advocating for blindly doing what you are told. You need to have discernment, think for your self and make sure it lines up with God’s word. I am saying that we all need to learn the importance of obedience; first to God and then to those we are in relationship with.
I experience disobedience daily. In my life, my childrens’ lives, my students’ lives. It is everywhere. The one thing I have come to learn is that disobedience is a heart issue. Once we get to the bottom of our own heart issue towards this topic, we can start to mend our current and future relationships and ourselves. Obedience to God builds faith and trust, as we see the fruit of that obedience. Obedience to parents brings security as children learn that even in their most chaotic moment of disobedience they can trust that Mom and Dad are in control. Obedience in a marriage brings the important intimacy; both emotionally and sexually, that make a marriage thrive and succeed. Obedience in a sibling relationship is imperative to making a happy home and is a model for the community we call church.
My struggle with disobedience started at a young age, as it does for all of us. Pushing my boundaries, challenging my parents. In the perfect situation there are two godly parents that know exactly how to respond to these willful acts of disobedience and the children grow up safe and secure with a good understanding that obedience yields peace and blessings beyond measure. Unfortunately this is rare. In fact most godly parents struggle too. They are too strict, shielding their children from everything that is in this world, which then shelters them from the experience and understanding of the importance of obedience. Or they teach from the broken places in their heart to not trust church authority, but only trust Jesus. Which is a skewed broken version of the obedience that we are called to. We are all humans who have screwed up. Humans that make choices out of fear, because of our past experiences, we need to rebuke the lies that our past dictates our and our children’s future and be obedient to God’s word. Mend the broken places, learn obedience and in turn teach it.
This year I vowed to God to be obedient to his word in regards to my divorce and eventual dating and remarriage. This in and of itself should be easy right? It’s all in the bible. Read it. Do it. Success. Too bad that is never how it works, Paul says it best when he talks about it in Romans 7:19 “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” This is why we live in community, because we can’t do it alone. We need our Christian friends to pick us up when we are down, and more importantly slap us around (metaphorically of course) when we are listening to our flesh instead of Gods word.
The issue of obedience is illustrated nicely in the historical record of the minor prophet, Jonah. We all know the story right? God tells Jonah to help the evil people of Nineveh, Jonah says he will but then disobeys and tries to run from God. We all know that did not end well for him and eventually he repented and did what God asked of him. He could have saved himself so much heartache and trouble if he had just been obedient the first time. This is an important theme for this story, but not the one that I want to point out.
God has been really laying this on my heart lately, and as most of us do, I was not paying too much attention. But after repeated exposure to the story of Jonah I started to get the hint. First an acquaintance mentioned identifying with Jonah in the midst of a struggle, the next day my sister posted the cutest video of a little girl retelling the story of Jonah on my Facebook feed, and last but not least my new morning devotional was about Jonah. So I took the hint and studied and pondered the story and the theme of obedience through out.
Do you know what struck me the most? The fact that the men in the boat to Tarshish would never have met Jonah and subsequently been saved had he not been disobedient in the first place. As it says in Jonah 1:16 “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.” These men saw the glory of the lord and committed their lives to him after their experience.
Yes, we should advocate for obedience at all times. Disobedience brings shame. Shame begets isolation and isolation leads us away from the center of God’s will. I am not applauding the fact that Jonah screwed up, but I am realizing that even in our disobedience God is faithful and full of grace.
That is what I need from him, because I so often feel like a failure in my pursuit of him. I had a Jonah moment in my life when I felt God calling me to speak to a congregation about their feelings towards the Hispanic migrants in the community. As a new member of the church I was saddened to see them treat the community of Hispanics with contempt. My plan was to leave the church, find one that did not represent us in such a harsh, unloving way. God had other plans and he told me, for months, to speak to them about their unloving ways. Long story short I never did. I tried to write a letter, the pastors would not agree to read it and wanted me to address the congregation. I was in my late 20’s and the bulk of the parishioners were in their 50’s, I could not do it. Of course now I know that I can never do anything, but through God who strengthens me I can do all things. Unfortunately, I did exactly what Jonah did and ran away. Up until this year I felt ashamed for my actions, for not having the courage to be obedient to God. I know that he still loves me and has forgiven me. I also know that if I need the strength to be obedient to him, I need to look to him and get support from my community of believers. My walk of obedience has been a long one. From rebellious punk rocker that did the opposite of what I was told on purpose, to the God fearing Christian who struggles, but ultimately knows that there is no better place than the trust and faith I have in Jesus. The more I walk in obedience to him, the more blessed I become.
Thank God his grace is sufficient for me, as wretched as I can be.
May God bless you as you try to walk in obedience.