Obedience has gotten a bad rap. Our culture values initiative, but obedience is seen as simply responding to another’s directive or initiative. Our culture values freedom. To obey is to choose to restrict my freedom out of respect of another. Our culture cherishes independence. To obey is to submit. In a society that seeks equality and personal respect, the respect of those in authority seems to reek of dysfunction. Where is personal value, we ask, if there is authority that must be obeyed? Where is freedom, if we must submit? And where is pro-active initiative, if we are called to respond by obeying someone else? To obey is to follow and to follow is not to lead, so it must be less.
Jesus confronts our culture when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) He also said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) How can love and friendship be linked with obedience?
When we recognize God as God, obedience is natural. He is Creator. We are the created. He is all-powerful. We are filled with weakness. He is sovereign. We are not. Many times we want to bring God down to our level. We want Him to behave as if He were one of us. But He is not. We want Him to be on equal terms with us. We seek to diminish Him, and still pretend to worship Him. But He never changes. He is always King of Kings.
The shock is not that we are to obey. The shock is that He would dare to call us friends. (John 15:15) He doesn’t call us friends because He needs our friendship. This isn’t a friendship where we can demand of Him as He can demand of us. No, we are unworthy, but chosen; unlovable, yet loved; unfriendly, yet befriended.
Obedience then, is a joyful expression of love to the Almighty by those who have been transformed by His love. Obedience to Him is true freedom.