Jul 03, 2009
One of the last Churches my wife and I visited was about four years ago. At this point we were looking for just about anything that would give us a reason to give the system another chance. We wanted to make sure that our decision to live in the wild wasn't made in haste or without warrant. Like the scientists who scanned the surface of Mars; we were eagerly looking for even the most minute signs of life. Anything that would tell us that it was worth it to stick around and raise a family.
The worship was the same as most other churches. It was the normal contemporary "I'm a hippie and lose myself in the moment" flare that I'd seen in the other churches around town. The sermon was actually pretty good. It was packed full of stuff we'd all learned in the second grade, but at least they weren't making God out to look like a jerk. Anything was better than that. Even the offering was done in a clever and less embarrassing way then what we were used too. At the very least, it was appearing tolerable. Nothing stuck out as either good or bad, it just was what it was.
As we were exiting the sanctuary like a herd of hungry cattle, our children came joyfully skipping towards us with Tootsie Pops in their mouths and sticky hands holding gobs of Sunday school memorabilia. This was the the final test. In reality it was the only test. How did the kids like it? The looks on their faces told us that they loved it. They were buzzing about everything they did in their classes. The little one informed us that, "They gave us lollies" about seventy times in a row until we steadied her trembling sugar-filled body, established eye contact and said, "I can see that." She handed me her coloring page she had scribbled on and I noticed it had a picture of a few men standing around Jesus. On the top of the page were the words, "Built To Obey God."
Without a single word from my mouth, my wife looked at me shaking her head and said, "I know, I know."
Out of the many troubling things I hear from hurting people who have been steeped in religious thinking, I do not believe there is anything quite as troubling as the modern day teachings and beliefs on the subject of "obedience." I think the average person honestly believes that obedience is at the top of God's list of things He desires from His people. The very subject, when mentioned, almost immediately causes me to imagine a dog in "obedience school." There is something almost inhumane or degrading in the air when that word is spoken in Christian circles. I halfway expect God to be standing over me with a choke-chain and a rolled up newspaper ready to pop me if I don't respond to His commands. I get a picture of a military sergeant barking orders at a line of terrified cadets.
Oddly enough, a surprising number of Christians claim to be comfortable with these twisted descriptions of obedience. It's not uncommon to hear people use animal training metaphors when describing the kind of relationship they believe God is pushing them towards. The "breaking of one's spirit" as if they were a horse or a dog seems to elicit an eerie string of tranquilized moans and amens from just about any Christian audience. It's as though people have found some freaky comfort in having acknowledged their rightful "place" in God's twisted universe. Whoever delights in it the most, is considered "spiritual."
If obedience is truly as important to God as we've all been taught, I for one am not interested in Him. It's not that I have a problem with obedience as much as I am generally turned off by people who need to BE obeyed. There is a, "do it or else...." feeling in the air with people like this.
Obedience is for people who live apart from God. It's a huge focus in the Old Testament because no one had the Spirit of God living inside them. They were soldiers awaiting orders. Today however, the focus is not on obedience, but on a heart connection with the One who indwells us. Once that is established; obedience is never an issue. It is my belief the "obedience theology" separates us from that wonderful truth. It puts the spotlight on the symptoms of love, rather than the heart of love.
A focus on obedience is only necessary if someone's connection has malfunctioned or has never been established in the first place. If a Christian is "in the dark," they have to resort to obedience. Kind of like a flight attendant having to land a plane by following step by step orders from the tower. There is no "feel" for the cockpit. It's just dials, buttons and knobs. When the Pilot lives in your heart; flying is in your very soul. You go wherever you want. You take off and land from wherever you decide. The sky belongs to you.
Obedience theology causes people to focus on the knobs, buttons and dials rather than the horizon of life. They spend more time listening and worrying than they do flying and living.
You don't have to tell a squirrel to collect nuts for the winter. He does it because he has a squirrel's heart. The same is true for children of Yahweh. We have his Spirit living inside of us. Obedience theology hinges upon people NOT living IN Christ. It's custom made for the wearer of WWJD bracelets and the scripture quoters who have never witnessed what they quote.
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