I’m going to launch an ever so gentle disagreement on account of the fact that often semantics and linguistics can get in the way of our understanding. Words can have different meanings and the context can be varied among individuals.
I’ve written several posts about the problem of obedience, which is a bit amusing in a Christian context. One must ask, So do we have too many faithful and obedient Christians in the world? Why yes, yes we do, the problem being we are often very obedient to all the wrong things. We start to value our own obedience more than we value the One we are obeying.
Michael writes, “What is God’s love language?” He, like many others, suggests that it is obedience. I have to disagree. God’s love language is actually Jesus, and not our own obedience.
The five love languages are acts of service, words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch, and quality time. I think Jesus embodies all of those. Obedience is not actually a love language at all, in part because obedience is our own response to someone else’s love. Obedience is all about us. “We love because He first loved us.”
I suggest that we are simply incapable of being obedient on our own. In fact, we are incapable of even knowing “how” to obey. We often don’t understand what the will of the Father even is. There are some broad road marks, like the ten commandments, so we know “thou shall not steal.” Stealing is not the will of the Father. Managing to not steal in any given situation however, is not really obedience.
Keeping all the commandments, although definitely a form of obedience, is simply not what God is looking for. Jesus tells the rich young ruler, who apparently DID keep all the commandments, okay, now go and give all your money away to the poor. The rich young ruler just walks away sad.
Jonah of the whale tale is actually obedient to the will of the Father, whereas King David a few times is not. Jonah, although kicking and screaming and trying to run away the whole time, does go and preach repentance to Nineveh and they are saved. Through no fault of his own, Jonah actually does the will of the Father. King David who is a man after God’s own heart has a bit of a slip and does his own will instead. We don’t often hold Jonah up as an example of obedience, but if obedience is about doing the will of the Father, Jonah hit a home run.
I think we need to be really careful about focusing too much on obedience. Something that has really bothered me the past couple of years is how in the midst of so much wrong doing on the part of our leaders, many Christians chose to preach on Romans 13, the need to submit to governing authorities. That is one of the mistakes that happens when we decide that our own obedience is a virtue unto itself.
Many who have studied the Bible much more thoroughly than I have, believe Romans 13 is speaking about relationships between Jews and gentiles, respecting the synagogue rulers of Rome, and not about secular authorities at all. It is not an overarching commandment to “obey the Romans.” Paul is saying the synagogue rulers interpret Torah, and Paul is encouraging gentile believers to give them their due respect.
So again we have an example of how Christians can trip over ourselves eager to obey, but lacking all context about how and what we should be obeying. We need to be careful about trying to put the virtue of our own obedience before the One we are obeying.