If you read yesterday’s post, you’re wondering if my head is spinning, because there I basically said the opposite—that God is NOT interested in our obedience.
However, if you know anything about the Bible, you know it is full of contradictions that are resolved only in the deep understanding of the heart of God and the truth and teachings of Jesus. (“Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.”)
If you know anything about me, you know I love to explore apparent contradictions! So let’s take a little walk through this and see if it resonates.
Indeed, many Bible verses do call us to obedience. The Old Testament law says, “Be careful to obey all these words that I command you today, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, because you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.”
Jesus says, “If you love me, obey my commandments.”
These commands and others may be unsettling for those who have fought to move beyond the rigid rules of their youth. Besides that, strict adherence to rules is contrary to the overall message of Jesus as well as the entire New Testament (…as well as the entire Old Testament, but that’s too big a bite for today).
I have researched the word we read today as obedience. In New Testament Greek, obey means: to hear. Yes. To listen. Not to do what has been asked but to listen.
Intrigued by this, I looked up obedience in Old Testament Hebrew as well, because we know the OT and the NT can feel quite different.
It means: to hear. Again. To hear!
Astounding because to hear someone implies a relationship. Here we have this lovely idea woven throughout the Bible, an invitation to listen to God—an invitation to a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD as God speaks to us individually through the Spirit—and it’s been distorted into an item to check off our “to-do” list.
“Just do these things and avoid those and you’ll be good.” This rule-keeping view of obedience badly misses the point, and tragically misses the very heart of God.
Just today, a reader shared a list of passages with me to point out how wrong I was with yesterday’s post. I have taken these and replaced the word obedience with the word listening. Read them and see if your heart is left with a different feeling than being asked to obey a list of rules…
Romans 16:19 — For your listening has become known to all. I rejoice therefore over you.
James 1:25 — A listening person will, as the result of his listening, be blessed.
1 Peter 1:22 — Seeing that you have purified your souls in your listening to the truth.
1 John 5:3 — Love for God means listening.
2 John 1:6 — God’s command is that you should live in listening.
3 John 1:3 — Live in listening to the truth.
Doesn’t that really affect the meaning? Remember, this is the original biblical translation.
Push pause here for just a moment.
If you have viewed obedience as the main thing God asks of us, having read or been told verses that support that, please take a moment. This may change everything and give you the joy and freedom your heart and soul has been longing for.
Nearly all of us, if we are spiritually honest, must say, “Hm. I didn’t see obedience that way.” Most of us believe obedience is a thing we do — it’s the way it’s commonly thought of and taught.
But that is not an accurate translation, and that is not an accurate picture of God’s desire for each of us.
To really listen to God is frankly quite scary! (If you think it’s not, you may not grasp what I’m talking about.) It’s much easier to package the rules we’re pretty good at, do them, and say we’re obedient. But to really listen?
To live the authentic life we want to live, we need to say, “Let me stand down and prayerfully ask God what this is all about.
Listening like that takes true courage.
To ask God how to view the LGBTQ community, and others who are oppressed and marginalized and hurting, and then listen to God’s answer—as so many parents and pastors and other Christians have already done—takes true courage. Because if God tells you to stand down, and to love without condition as Jesus taught, it will have implications for your life. You’ll have to allow God to change long-held beliefs in your heart.
But that kind of authenticity is the only life that can really be called obedient.
*Artwork courtesy of Gwen Meharg, DrawNearToGod.com