What Is Obedience?

by Christine Sine

Latin American cross

What is obedience and more particularly, what does it mean to be obedient to God? As we head towards Lent these are questions I ask myself. The scriptures tell us Christ was obedient unto death – even death on a Cross (Phil 2:8). Many of us struggle with that concept. Did God really intend for Jesus to die and if so why such a painful death?

Obedience is about being open and receptive to the voice of God. It necessitates a willingness to listen combined with a determination to respond even when that responsiveness involves changing our lives in accordance with what we hear. It means responding, even if what we hear means walking towards death as Jesus did. Obedience to the divine will, giving priority to God’s will over our own self will means that we believe God will always reveal what is best for us. It means acknowledging that the primary task of our lives is finding God’s will and conforming to it.

This is not an easy way of life or an easy form of listening. Listening constantly for God’s will places us constantly on the alert for the slightest sound, the quietest whisper of God’s voice. It attunes us to the unexpected and often ignored voices through whom God speaks – the young, the old, the disabled, the poor, the abandoned, the inarticulate and the marginalized. These were the people that Christ so often honoured and applauded.

Unfortunately these are often not the voices that we listen to. The rich and the powerful shout loudly and often drown out other voices. They encourage us to believe that our longing for more stuff and more security are the best way to prosper and follow God. They swamp out God’s call to simplicity and justice and encourage to look for the best paying job rather than the one that is God’s will for us.

As we head towards Lent next week and prepare to follow Christ towards the Cross I wonder what would happen if we really committed ourselves to obedience. How differently would we live if we listened to the voices of the oppressed and the marginalized, to concerns about climate change and bloated consumptive lifestyles? How differently would we live if we truly committed ourselves to trust God and walk in obedience to the divine will… no matter what the cost to our personal lives?

For Jesus trusting in God led him down a very challenging path, but the scriptures also tell us that for the joy set before him he endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).


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Elaine Culver February 26, 2014 - 7:49 am

In The Genessee Diary, Henri Nouwen writes John Eudes Bamberger’s description of obedience, especially how it differs from compliance.

Christine Sine February 26, 2014 - 8:11 am

Elaine I love Henri Nouwen. This is a great reminder to look at the Genessee Diary again. We have so much to learn about following Christ from people likethis

Bev Wilson February 26, 2014 - 11:23 am

Thanks for this, Christine. Helpful for me just now!

Christine Sine February 26, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Glad to hear that Bev

Eva March 1, 2014 - 3:20 am

Hard and scarey stuff. Far far out of most of our comfort zones!

Christine Sine March 1, 2014 - 7:31 am

Your right. Unfortunately we don’t take the following of Christ very seriously.

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