Joey and Lucas are five-year-old cousins. Not long ago they were together for a family picnic. Joey got there first and within five minutes was creating chaos, just like he always does wherever he go. He was running, jumping, hollering, tipping things over, reaching into the fruit bowl with his muddy hands to pick out all the grapes, plowing into great-grandma and almost knocked her to the ground, pulling the hair of the other kids, squirting everyone with his jumbo-size bazooka squirt gun, and finding endless ways to irritate everyone around him. All the while his mom and dad were yelling at him, telling him to stop, shaking their fingers at him, and making all kinds of empty threats. Joey was unmoved by anything they said, and his reign of terror went on all day.
When Lucas got there, he joined right in, running and jumping like kids do, and it looked like the trouble would be doubled. His dad said nothing while the boys were just playing, but as soon as he saw Lucas join Joey in pushing another little boy, he called his name. Lucas immediately stopped and looked over at his dad, who was signaling Lucas to come over to him. When Lucas arrived with his head hanging low, his dad said quietly but firmly, “Lucas, you can have fun here, but I want you to behave, and I don’t want to have to tell you that again, okay?”
“Okay, Dad,” said Lucas, and he went back to playing with the other kids. From then on, Lucas behaved. Never again in the entire day did his dad have to discipline him. Obedience is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
But to be honest, we might have to clarify that by saying obedience is a wonderful thing when expected of other people. Within each of us there is a bit of Joey– a rebelliousness against obedience to the rules, and a desire for the freedom and independence to do whatever we want to do.
A while back I read an interesting survey. I forget the details, but it went something like this. First question: Many wealthy people have been caught paying far less taxes than they really owe. Should there be closer scrutiny on these people in order to increase needed revenue? Yes, of course, most people said. Second question: Would you welcome closer scrutiny of your own tax returns? No, of course not, most people said. Obedience is a wonderful thing– for other people.
Obedience, as you recall, is a big deal in the Bible. The words obey, disobey, obedience, disobedience, and other forms of those words appear hundreds of times in the Bible. The closely related words sin, sinners, and sinning, appear well over a thousand times.
Obedience is what God demands of us, but disobedience is what God often gets from us. And it is this disobedience to God’s commandments that creates all kinds of trouble for us and for the whole world. It is our disobedience, our sin, that made it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. And it is that forgiveness of our sins, bought and paid for on the cross, that we need most of all. Obedience is a big deal in the Bible.
In the second chapter of Ezekiel God says to Ezekiel: “I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God.’”
God is angry because His people are not obeying him. That is what usually happens when there is disobedience– someone gets angry— parents, teachers, employers, co-workers, or God. (continued…)
Joshua 22:5 — Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Psalm 128:1 — Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.
Ephesians 5:3-6 — But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater— has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
Open our hearts, O Lord, and enlighten our minds by the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may seek what is well-pleasing to your will; and so order our doings after your commandments, that we may be found fit to enter into your everlasting joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Saint Bede (673-735)