“Obedience is the key!” shouted he radio preacher. Ugh, well, Jesus is the key but that got me thinking a lot about obedience. Obedience, for sure, plays a big part. Perhaps, however, not as we think.
I know that just the mention of that word illicits a mixed bag of emotions, because it comes cloaked with some heavy connotations. “You will never measure up,” for one. When we hear things like those preacher’s words it almost immediately sends us out on a “super Christian” mission to shore up our behavior and lands us squarely on reliance on the arm of the flesh to rein in any wayward ways.
I have to admit it, however, when Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light, it does not always feel that way. In John 14:15 Jesus is recorded as saying,” If you love me you will obey what I command.” How often have I stumbled under the weight of trying as best I can to obey his commandments in an effort to please him? We read those words and almost sigh out loud, for we are aware of how miserably we fail at keeping them on a daily basis. We manage what we can (“Today I am going to work on keeping a lid on my tongue.”) but keeping our lives in tow for even a day can be defeating, and sets us up to a nagging voice that says, “You should do better by now.”
Surely Jesus’ “requirement” for loving him has nothing to do with how well we perform in keeping and endless list of things to do in order to prove our devotion. For surely it did not parallel that of the Pharisees’ coercive strategy for keeping us in line by strict adherence to endless and unattainable rules.
What I am not saying is walking in the way of Jesus is optional and these instructions for Kingdom living have no merit. (I know some of you were getting nervous.) Far from it. Perhaps, however, we need to look at what Jesus was saying with new eyes.
What if, “If you love me” is not about having to prove your love?
What if obedience is the natural result of relationship? “If you love me……you will…” What if loving Jesus is the keeping of the commandments? What if true faithfulness cannot be fulfilled through conformity to rules but only with a heart given over to him? What if obedience can’t be reduced to our heroic attempts to manage our behavior but is a profound way of listening, attentivenss and surrender? What if obedience is the by-product, without any pushing and shoving on our part, of choosing a way of life in which we are fully and personally engaged with Jesus himself?
Someone once said, “Love Jesus then do what you want.” I know this sounds scary to most of us concerned with how we and others behave. And perhaps it’s too simplistic for most of us but wasn’t it Jesus that said all of the commandments can be summed up in this one thing: loving God….the greatest command of all?