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Unwavering: Obedience

When Ben and I first got engaged, we were advised to take an online personality test to learn about each other’s specific love language. For those who aren’t familiar with the 5 Love Languages, it’s essentially a personality test that helps you identify the ways in which you feel most cared for. This, they said, would be fun. It would help us love each other well, and ensure that we were interpreting each other’s gestures of affection correctly. So we began our journey to figure ourselves out. We were initially surprised to find that there were only five languages listed as options, and that “chocolate”, “puppy memes”, and “solidarity during the NBA finals” were not listed options. Regardless, we have found speaking each other’s language to pay dividends in our marriage. On paper, HusBen and I are opposites—down to the iota. Consequently, we have to be very intentional to communicate affection to one another in our specific languages. To be expected, we’ve missed each other a time or two—meaning well, but trying to love as we want to be loved— who knew HusBen didn’t like dark chocolate? He would rather me give him the gift of sticking to our budget rather than splurging to give him a “just because” goodie. And I would rather him serve me by watching Sister Act 2 instead of filing our taxes. We’re learning, folks.

It’s clear throughout Scripture that the Lord’s love language is obedience. There are multiple references to support this claim, but this one will suffice:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:15, 21).

It’s pretty straightforward. There’s little to no room for confusion or misinterpretation. And though this is the case, I continue to waver in my obedience, 525,600 times a day, all things considered. And I know I’m not alone.

When we try to explain why we don’t do what God tells us to do, even though we know and love him, we run out of excuses very quickly. It boils down to this: either we don’t know what his commands are and are unintentionally deviating from them, or we do know what they are and are intentionally rejecting them. Our obedience then becomes contingent on either our awareness or our desire.

Awareness

If we say we love him, but haven’t prioritized learning his commands, then we cannot claim that we are ignorant, but rather negligent. In this day and age, when unending information is but a click away, we cannot in good conscience play the victim and say that we are unaware and uninformed. Ignorance implies a lack of access to information, and unless someone living in the bush of Papua New Guinea has received this text from a messenger pigeon, lack of access to information does not apply here. The more fitting word is negligent. We all have access to God’s word but a click away. Yet we, I’ll speak for myself, I neglect studying his Word to focus on more important matters: like celebrity feuds and how to master the smoky-eye.

For those of us who’s obedience is contingent on awareness, let’s intentionally prioritize studying God’s word to learn how he instructs us to live, and then make habits of doing what it says. Of nothing else can we say, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

Desire

I do not have the luxury of pleading ignorance when I disobey. I know God’s word, I know what he tells me to do and what not to do. I know how he feels about obedience and disobedience. And all things considered, somehow, I choose to walk in some degree of disobedience every single day. Sometimes I feel frustrated and disappointed with myself, repentant and remorseful. But more often than I care to admit I feel justified in my disobedience. I know it says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Eph. 4:29) but rush hour traffic is a very real reality where I live. I know he says, “Do not fear” (Is. 41:10) but what about terrorism, quicksand, and shark week? I know that he tells us to be loving, generous, and self-controlled, but budgeting for groceries is hard enough, much less being generous. And how is one supposed to be self-controlled when things like limitless chips and salsa exist? And Lord, it is actually impossible to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2) while teaching high school boys.

Basically, I’m realizing that I heed his commands on a case-by-case basis and in doing so reserve the right to “abort mission” if obedience is asking too much in any given scenario. I have an arsenal of excuses.

When we do this we regard God’s very words not as absolute authority, but rather as suggestions; not mandatory, but rather optional.

Jesus asks the masses following him, “Why do you say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). And it’s a great question—can we call him lord while actively disregarding what he asks of us? How do you even answer his question?

“Yeah, Jesus, I know you tell me to love my enemies and what not, but you know how annoying she can be. I literally can’t even…”

As trite and basic as the latter sounds, it’s actually true—we, in fact, literally cannot even. In our own strength, by our own hands, we can’t. We need Jesus to help us obey Jesus. Go figure.

I have lousy track record of consistent obedience, and I, by nature, have always found rules to be stifling, oppressive, and in direct opposition to fun. But here’s what I go back to: I love the Lord, and I get to show him that I love him through obedience. It’s an opportunity, not a burden. If we want to have unwavering obedience, we need his help and a change of perspective—from begrudging “have to’s” to affectionate “get-to’s”.

We can cling to this hope as we strive to live not for ourselves, on our own time, in our own strength, but for him, by his rules, and in his strength:

 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:2-5).

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