Obedience (edited)

So my pastor (and friend, Marty, over at www.pastormarty.wordpress.com) posed the question via email:

When is obedience easy?  When is it hard?

I decided to post my response.  I’ve asked the other leaders he posed the question to if I might post their responses.  There responses follow mine.  It’s kind-of nice, sometimes, to not be the only person who sees things in a certain light.  I found it interesting how much on the same page we all were.

So I had this initial reaction to that question.  And I recoiled.  I decided that my initial answer was way too bleak.  I thought there must be a different way to frame it.

I thought, for a while.

And I concluded, that, in fact, my initial answer was correct and it was self-deceit that lead me to want to soft-peddle.

So here it is:

The easiest thing about obedience to God is that sometimes it’s fun.  Other times there are secondary benefits, like looking all spiritual and stuff.

Often times, obedience to God makes sense: I can easily see what God wants me to do.  Lots of the time, God quickly and directly rewards obedience.  Having an easy time seeing the fruits of what I’ve sewn makes obedience easy.

When God gives me a happy little buzz, it both reminds me of my mispent college days and makes obedience easy.  There’s an embarassingly small list of places I’m simply in the habit of being obedient around.  Being in the habit makes it easy.

On the other hand: often times, obedience is so hard and boring.  It is often time thankless, painful, and unpopular.  There are ways I know that I’m supposed to obedient to God that make absolutely no sense to my puny little ant-brain.  There must be some knuckleheaded

part of me that thinks God owes me an explanation. 

Obedience is so very hard when it seems like I’m being punished (by the world) for my obedience.  Sometimes I don’t even feel all proud of myself when I’m obedient, let alone get a buzz.  Sometimes it’s just rote, a duty.  (Which leads to the question if in fact I’m being obedient at all if I’m doing it grudginly.)

Obedience is so tough when it’s out of my comfort zone, something I’m not in the habbit of doing…

My buddy Steve (director of family ministries at Fellowship Church) says:

Wow. What a question when you seriously sit down and think through it for a moment.  At first anyone’s response might be, I am obedient and begin to list the things we’re involved in.  but if we again begin at the brokenness sign post we have to come to grips that we don’t obey as much as we think we do on a day to day basis.  And we can come up with many justifications for our decisions (even using biblical wisdom for support), but in the end we must admit where we have pushed the HS aside and have done what we think is best.

The easiest thing about obedience is when it’s something that we’ve already done before or fits nicely in our schedule and budget.  It’s something that we’ve already gone through the awkwardness of it and realized the end it was far rewarding than what was first assumed like going to a small group, leading a small group, praying in public, praying by ourselves, calling people on the phone, engaging in deep conversation with someone at lunch, inviting people over for dinner, doing foster care, going on a missions trip, teaching and sharing what we know about the bible and admitting we don’t have all the answers, asking others to volunteer, reading Jeff’s blogs (needed a change of pace here)…you get the point.

The hardest thing about obedience is when it makes me uncomfortable and I’m unsure of the outcome, or I’m pretty certain the outcome is not a pat on the back but perhaps a “foolish” decision or against a passion I thought God had placed within me.  It’s decisions that shake more than just me around, those that influence my family, the church…It’s those decisions that truly challenge me to build my faith, be confident in God’s leading, and those which I know I’m going to have to “consider it joy” when I know it’s not going to feel like Joy.  It’s things that obviously look like perseverance, endurance, suffering, sacrifice, brokenness, humility, foolishness and uninspiring.

Al is a bit briefer (more brief?  It’s hard to be grammatically correct as I write this at 3 AM) was Al, director of Foyer Services (or some such) at FC.

Jeff I appreciate your honesty.  You’re always so candid on these topics.  The easiest thing for me… It’s right.  Not that doing what’s right is easy, but the idea that it is the right thing to do is very motivating for me.

Also, I want to pursue truth, and want my life to reflect the truth of who God is.  I think obedience is one of the best ways to display this.

The difficult thing about obedience is that it goes directly against my flesh.  When I am in the flesh, you know the very few times (Note sarcastic tone), the last thing I want to do is obey God.  I have this struggle, the sin that easily besets me, REBELLION!  My flesh wants to do the opposite of what anyone in authority tells me to do.  Then I want to shove it in their face and say, “Ha!  What do you think about that?” 

That last comment of mine is not usually the best approach with God, especially when it comes to disobedience!   So, those are my thoughts.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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