Obedient – submissive to the restraint or command of authority: willing to obey.
If you grew up in church, chances are you have heard the song “Trust and Obey”. Church folks love to teach that to kids. Me? Never a big fan of that song. Not because I don’t think it’s important for us to trust and obey God. I really do believe that. I just take issue with the lyrics:
Trust and obey,
for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey
Because you see, sometimes I don’t want to be told to obey. For me, that song seems almost like a threat. “You had better obey what I’m telling you if you want to be happy in Jesus.”
Nobody likes ultimatums.
I didn’t give my life to Christ because someone told me if I didn’t I was going to hell. I gave my life to Christ because I finally understood the depth of His love for me. You can’t force willful obedience any more than you can force someone to accept Christ. They have to come to both willingly if either is to be sincere.
I know I’ve posted the following quote on numerous occasions – here and elsewhere, and I may be getting off on a bit of a tangent, but it’s probably my favorite quote on Christianity of all times, so I’ll share it again:
The only thing worse than the joke you don’t get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect.
And so, here I go — me and a dozen thousand other people — trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put faith in Him, and what all of that won’t mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may be fine as far as it goes, it doesn’t go far enough.
But then I remember two things. The first thing I remember is how I once won an argument with a heathen friend of mine who — after I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth — blew me away by simply saying, “I do not want to be a Christian. I don’t want your Jesus Christ.” There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.
So the second thing I remember is this:
I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many “unreasonable” ways) His Presence; a presence that is more than convincing, it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. “If I be lifted up,” Jesus said, “I will draw all men unto me.”
So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation of a joke you’ve already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain. Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.