We had a golden retriever named Crosby. And although he was fully grown, he still lived the life of a well-meaning teenager. Crosby was more than a little egocentric. He had no idea of personal space, so when he walked into a room he stood on your feet, knocked into you, and wanted to be the first one to pass through every door. He believed that his needs superseded those of everyone around him. As a mom, and someone whose career path has always included working with children, this type of behavior is not unfamiliar to me. Crosby was not into obedience so much as he liked to play. He fetched, but mostly when he felt like fetching. He could carry more than one toy in his mouth at a time; a feat that he doggedly pursued before mastering. He dropped things into the pool just for the joy of taking them out again, and most endearingly, he liked to be with his family.
Crosby decided fairly early in life that he didn’t want to be separated from his family whether to go to sleep at night, or to be put outside if the people were inside. If you called him for one of these purposes he would lay belly up on the ground and roll over with his tail between his legs in what appeared to be submission. In reality, this was a manipulative ploy. “I am so cute. I love you so much that I don’t want to be away from you. It would be mean and unkind to make me go away from you. The party is in here where you are!”
Like Crosby, we crave the closeness of others. We are afraid of missing out. We like to have our own way. Also like Crosby, we are reluctant to obey even if it is for our own good. Each time Crosby rolled over with his tail between his legs and his sad puppy face on full display we would grab him by the collar and “drag” him to wherever it is that we wanted him to go. Literally, we were dragging him into obedience.
When is the last time you were dragged into obedience? Is it hard to “find time” to spend in the Word? Is it hard to say no to media and cutural influences that you know are really not good for you? Are you insisting on controlling your family and every aspect of home life so that you can have order? Are you selfishly insisting on your own way in relationships? Are you guarding your time so jealously that you are not serving in the way that God is clearly calling you? There are so many ways to disobey, and many are so subtle that we don’t even realize it.
One form of disobedience is inaction. We simply think about something for so long that the thought drifts away into nothingness. That though of calling a friend in need? Time passes and we miss the window of opportunity. Sending a card of encouragement? More than a week passes and another opportunity is lost. Thank goodness God’s hands are not tied by my inactivity. He will absolutely use someone else-but I miss out on the blessing. Don’t mistake this: I shouldn’t take action or obey for the resultant blessing. I should take action out of my love for God and my love for others. The very great love he has shown me should cause me to desire to serve him through loving others. When we choose inaction over participation we lose the blessing that participating with others would bring.
Obedience really is for our own benefit. As a kid I believed that being obedient was all about what the other person was asking of me. “Sit still”-a teacher, “stop talking”-a teacher again, or maybe my mom calling me to do chores. Obedience seemed to be all about the task or about what I should or should not be doing. Now I see that obedience is about love, respect, my heart condition, and frequently, about submission to the authority of someone else in my life. I respect you so I am willing to speak more kindly. My heart is soft toward others so I can use my free time to serve people. I am willing to submit to authority in my life out of respect for others. By practicing these types of obedience my heart stays open to what is going on around me and not tangled up in bitterness and spiraling narratives in my heard.
Obedience is key to our walk as Christians. John 15:15 says, “If you love me, keep my commands”. The implication is that love leads to obedience. Because God loves us, he wants the best for us, which includes obeying his commands. As we grow to know and love God more, the less time we spend being dragged into obedience. The more we understand his great love for us, the more we want to willingly and cheerfully obey.