God, who gets invited
to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?
tell the truth.
“Don’t hurt your friend,
don’t blame your neighbor;
despise the despicable.
“Keep your word even when it costs you,
make an honest living,
never take a bribe.
“You’ll never get
if you live like this.” (The Message)
Nearly all of us had to work hard to get good grades in school. Each schoolyear began with a blank slate; then, what we did with learning the lessons determined the grade.
So, it’s unthinkable for many of us to consider that we all begin God’s school with A’s. We’re all 4.0 students. There’s only a lower grade if we neglect to do the things necessary as an A student. And, as it turns out, the most important things are a matter of basic human kindness and respect for others.
At the end-of-the-year banquet, awards are given. If we’ve done what’s expected, then the invitation to come to the front and receive the award is assured.
Yet, if anyone has gone out of their way to be deliberately stupid and ignore what’s right, then they aren’t going to show up at the banquet. They’ll dismiss it as a waste of their time and blabber about how they don’t be around a bunch do-gooder pricks and Abe Lincoln’s, blah-blah-blah.
Integrity, honesty, kindness, accountability, and commitment matter. Virtue shows itself through the practice of obedience.
We might get hung up on obedience for a few reasons:
- Many Westerners, especially Americans, have a strong anti-authoritarian strain; obedience smacks them as something negative. For some, they would rather stick-it-to-the-man than obey. Even Christians might sacralize their disobedience by linking obedience to law – as if gospel and obedience are antithetical.
- A lot of people have been personally hurt because they tried to do the right thing by obeying their authorities, but it ended badly. Now, they aren’t so sure about the whole obedience thing.
- We just plain don’t want anyone else telling us what to do and not do; and that includes not wanting to obey God. So, we focus on the freedom to do what we want, to the exclusion of obedience.
Yet, there’s no way to get around the pervasive reality of obedience to Torah, to Yahweh. Obedience is both the glue which holds a people together, as well as the major means of expressing love to God and others.
Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15, NLT)
Love and obedience go together in Holy Scripture like a hand in a glove. Jesus insisted that upholding Torah and loving others is by obedience to divine commands.
When Jesus first began his teaching and healing ministry, he sat all the people down who were following him and gave them a summary of the Old Testament understanding of God’s righteousness. These are the things, Jesus explained, that characterize a person who loves God:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:12-17, NIV).
Obedient believers are characterized by their:
- Authentic humility
- Deep concern over sin, to the point of tears
- Gentle and meek spirit toward others
- Intense desire for personal righteousness and corporate justice
- Daily life of mercy, purity, and peacemaking
- Willingness to accept adversity as part of the spiritual life
Humanity is meant for wholeness, integration, and alignment of head, heart, and gut – with the glue of obedient love. We are designed to have all of life in parity and balance – work, play, family, and faith – because God is Lord of it all, not just the spiritual parts.
Historic confessional Christianity acknowledges that obedience is both duty and delight – and they go together in perfect harmony.
Believers consider it a both a high charge and a wonderful privilege to love the Lord with a life devoted to obeying divine commands.
It’s just that sometimes we have our lives so planned and pre-determined that when God’s Spirit shows up to take us to a place of obedience, we struggle to realize what’s happening. And we miss what the Lord is doing in this world.
At other times, we read scriptural commands and feel the gentle nudging of God’s Spirit, yet we either cannot or will not respond out of fear, busyness, or grief.
Then there are times in which we are attentive to God’s Word and Spirit, seeking to obey – only to mess up and fail at it. It can leave us wondering if God could ever really do anything in or through us.
The truth is this: Love conquers all. Grace overcomes everything. Mercy never fails.
We are here on this earth because of how much the Lord is devoted to us. Even though we often walk the spiritual road in a three-steps-forward-two-steps-backward kind of way, God accommodates to our weakness.
So, we keep learning the ways of the Lord under the tutelage of God’s Spirit – who patiently and powerfully works within us so that God’s kingdom breaks into this world and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Blessed God, I seek not my own will but to fulfill your will in my everyday life. Enable me and strengthen me for this sacred duty and delight, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.