When I was a kid you obeyed first and asked questions later. If you were told to do something, you did it. Asking “why” only got you the standard, “because I said so” reply. To hesitate or argue—well, that meant you would do the required task after your spanking. A request was made, so obedience was to be quick and complete.
When I was a kid, you obeyed and then asked questions. But in our Christian lives we have added another layer to our obedience. Now, before we obey a commandment, we feel like we have to understand it. We will have long discussions on “just what Jesus meant when He said, that. . .” We will consult expert interpreters for their insights. We will compare various translations and traditions, and we will determine what Jesus intended in the “original documents.” Then we might act and we might not.
After all, 21st century America and 1st century Jerusalem are vastly different places and cultural accommodations must be made. The result is a lot of discussion in our churches, but little obedience. Jesus said there was an easy way to know the people who love Him—they obey His commandments. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments.” Jesus never promised we would understand. In fact, we are warned that God’s ways are not our ways, meaning we most likely will not understand. Yet, obedience is its own teacher.
Sometimes it is only in obedience that the truth of a commandment is seen. For instance, take the commandment to love your enemies. When we hear that command we don’t see how it will work. When we take the risk, however, to actually obey, we then see how both our enemy’s lives and our lives are transformed. Understanding comes only in obedience. The world isn’t looking far a way of life they understand. They are looking for a faith that redeems. Jesus didn’t give us a faith we can understand. We can’t understand His forgiveness–why would we understand His commandments? Jesus gave us a way to live that transforms. His commandments are the markers of that way. And it is in obedience—not understanding—that the power of this truth is revealed.
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