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A new (to me) view on obedience

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, 19 July:

If our Lord insisted on our obedience, He would simply become a taskmaster and cease to have any real authority. He never insists on obedience, but when we truly see Him we will instantly obey Him. Then He is easily Lord of our life, and we live in adoration of Him from morning till night. The level of my growth in grace is revealed by the way I look at obedience. We should have a much higher view of the word 'obedience', rescuing it from the mire of the world. Obedience is only possible between people who are equals in their relationship to each other; like the relationship between father and son, not that between master and servant. Jesus showed this relationship...The Son was obedient as our Redeemer, because He was the Son, not in order to become God’s Son.

There's a fascinatingly liberating point in here, but there's also a little bit of a hole in the logic, because we are not really equals with God in our relationship to Him. I suppose, on the level of freedom to choose to obey or to rebel, He does give us a certain degree of "equality"--or at least, the point is that obedience is a CHOICE. If you don't have a choice in the matter, you're not obeying the taskmaster--you're simply being forced to align with their wishes.

Seeing obedience as a willing offering of love in our relationship to You--I wonder how this impacts how I should/will relate to jcobleigh, whom I love.

  • C.S. Lewis, "Obedience--humility--is an erotic necessity." Humility is not a sad lack of self-esteem. Humility is the willingness to put others first and the actions to make that willingness reality.
  • God's economy is the opposite of the world's. (See Chambers' comment above, "We should have a much higher view of the word 'obedience', rescuing it from the mire of the world.") God views service and servanthood higher than he views rulers and domination. We think a person is successful if they can command others; He regards a person precious whose heart is towards serving and helping others. Can we obey because we choose to, or does our heart rankle at the very thought and we raise our chin and press our lips stubbornly together?
  • Philippians 2:6-11
    "...though [Jesus] existed in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

  • Romans 8:29 "...because those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." We, too, are being transformed through obedience, humility, love, relationship to God! As Jesus chose, so can we!

I find myself thinking now about how jcobleigh wanted to remove the word "obey" from my wedding vows to him. I appreciate his thoughtfulness, though I didn't feel strongly about not saying that word in my promise. I do realize the inequity of the traditional vows, for nowhere does the man vow to "obey" his wife. However, one could look at those words as though the woman were making the truly higher promise, the one of arguably deeper worth, in that she would be choosing to love her husband, and not being forced into it; she would be more Christlike. The problem is, the world sees the word "obey" and matches it with "domination" and screams righteous fury. So we're not doing it. :)

I think we both die a thousand little deaths every day. Just the sting of acknowledging that the other person is right, or that they have a better idea on how to get the task done, or that they simply prefer something to be a little different and thus we each compromise or flat-out change. Every time we take a deep breath instead of shouting in pain or anger. Every time we do something for the other person that needs to be done, something that makes their life perhaps a tiny bit easier, instead of doing what we want to be doing. The big challenges arrive in places, but it's the little challenges, every single day, that they don't tell you about in the movies. Anyone can live through a high-speed, traumatic bomb-on-a-bus scenario and kiss a fellow survivee, but it's the mundane little deaths every day that really either make a relationship or break it.

But the little deaths aren't a graveyard of shattered hopes--usually what they turn into is a flower garden where all the hard and brittle seed shells have split open, the seeds have died, and things far more alive and beautiful are growing in their place. Yes, the seeds died--but who wants to look at a handful of seeds when you could be breathing in the scent of loveliness? The garden still takes work--water, sun, weeding, sweat...but (I'm jumping metaphors here), the dance through the garden is so much easier when we both know just a little better how the other one moves and we give up something of our independent selves so that we can move more gracefully together as a couple.

So I guess it's the same with You. You don't need to change Yourself--you're already perfect--but I move with all the more joy with You when I choose to die another little death and melt even more into trusting You.

Thanks! :)



At our wedding, I promised to "obey" my husband, knowing exactly how offended some of my liberal or agnostic relatives would be by this, but feeling very strongly that Scripture does teach that wives are to willingly submit to their husbands' leadership rather than rebelling and insisting on their own way when there is a disagreement. Not to be doormats, not to repress their own thoughts and concerns, not to endure abuse and exploitation, but to consciously honour God's order of headship in their homes, and encourage their husbands in a role of leadership and responsibility, inasmuch as it lies in their power to do so.

Of course, the same passage of Scripture tells husbands that they should be utterly sacrificial in their love for their wives, cherishing and caring for them even to the point of giving up their very lives -- as Christ did for His church. That's a pretty tall order, too -- indeed, I'd say it demands far more of a man than obedience does of a woman.

My husband and I quoted that whole passage about the responsibilities of husbands and wives to each other as part of our wedding ceremony, before we took our vows. So if my relatives chose to miss the point and get all indignant over some foolish notion that I was signing up to be a victim of patriarchal oppression, I figured that was their problem, not mine. In fact, given that early in my teens one of my uncles had taken my family to task for not sharing his materialistic, modernistic view of life, I confess to having said my vows with a little more relish in that respect than was perhaps strictly necessary. "Ha ha! In your face, uncle X!" I'm bad that way. :)
Well, you DO have an "interrupt my Bible study and you will DIE" icon... :)
I'm reminded of the verse "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest... for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28,30) Christ didn't offer a rest which meant doing nothing, he didn't offer a freedom from work, or a freedom from service, he offered a work that was easy and light. After all, if we're doing nothing, we're pleasing ourselves -- ah, that old fallen pride!

Strangely enough, I got an interesting insight into the marriage-obey thing from reading a piece of Stargate fanfic. There was a point in the (AU) story where Sam proposes to Jack. In the conversation, the "obey" question comes up, and Sam says, much to her own and Jack's surprise, "Sir, I've obeyed your orders for five years in the line of duty. You have never abused that position. Not once. I promise to obey you." Now, yes, a marriage isn't a military operation, but there's two points in the above: one is that, things work smoother if there is one person who, in the working group, who is able to say the-buck-stops-here. And the other is, that in that situation, for those obeying, it's a matter of trust. Trust in both the comptetence and... humility of the person they are obeying. Why "humility"? Well, I was trying to find a word that was the opposite of power-grabbing/domination, and that's what came out. Funny that it comes back to humilty, isn't it? I'd never thought of obedience and humility linked in quite that way before, not until just now.

Obedience is a way of demonstrating trust. And trust is an aspect of faith -- and it all boils down to faith, doesn't it? Amazing how it's all knitted together.

I used to wonder why Jesus placed so much emphasis on "believe". I thought, "It doesn't feel right to get so much (i.e. salvation) for doing so little--shouldn't there be at least a few hoops to jump through?"

The thing is, believing IS everything. Believing expresses itself through doing and living, and that's everything--it's all toward Him. :)