Friday, January 15, 2010

Obey or Else

The core argument raised against the character of God since the inception of evil itself has been the positioning of the concept of obedience. If to obey is required to live then does this not make God a dictator? Demanding obedience on pain of death, even eternal death, has been a rod used to beat the downtrodden into submission. But submission to who? Does God require obedience and offer death for disobedience? Does the accusation have merit? It is not only our feeble minds that have been subjected to this argument, it has been told throughout the history of our planet far and wide through the universe. All other intelligent creations from the angels on down, have had to resolve themselves with this issue. So do we.

To begin to understand this properly, we need to remind ourselves of the composition of the character of God. To be a bit simplistic, but also accurate, God is love. God defines love. He is an example of love. He understands love in many forms from parent to child, from friend to friend, from intimate to intimate. Everything we know about love is everything we should understand about who, or what God is. God is life. He is the spark that makes an inanimate object made of dust and water to ‘become’ a living soul. Notice I did not say that man was already a living soul, when God breathed into him, man BECAME a living soul. The idea that our souls have always existed and will always exist is not based in scripture.

But if God is both Love and Life, then where does obedience enter the equation? Anything that is not comprised in the character of God that causes separation from God could be defined as ‘sin’. In essence ‘sin’ is the opposite, or it stands in opposition to God, to everything we know about God, therefore to both love and life itself. ‘Sin’ or evil as I commonly refer to it, is the embodiment of death and pain. What does not lead to love, leads to pain. What does not promote life, promotes death. There really are no grey areas, no areas of compromise. There is only love and life, or pain and death. Everything we do, we say, we think about, is destined towards one or the other of these end results. When we separate ourselves from love and life, we embark on the path of pain and death. It is NOT a punishment, it is a simple reality.

It is simply cause and effect. It is like gravity. Jump as high as you want in the air, but without assistance, you will return to the earth you jumped from. Coming back to earth after jumping is NOT a punishment. It is reality. It is the natural consequence of gravity. Gravity is not a concept from which one can negotiate through reason and alter its effects. It is a natural law. We do not question it. We have built technology to overcome it, but we recognize that it is an immutable force on our lives. The ‘laws’ of love are exactly the same. When we stray from the path of love we find ourselves amidst things that have nothing to do with love. This is NOT punishment, it is reality. Existence offers no 3rd choice, no 3rd option. There is love and life, and everything else, everything not of love or life – one or the other.

Once we understand there are really only two choices for how we exist, we begin to grasp the concept of the consequences of the choices we make. When God asks us to obey Him, He is not threatening us with punishment, RATHER He is trying to help us avoid all the pain and death that comes as a natural consequence of turning away from love and life. He is trying to warn us about the results from the seemingly innocuous choices that wind up leading to the addictions of death. He is trying to spare us pain. He is trying to bring us happiness. He is trying to teach us what love is, why it is of value, why we should embrace it, and how. Obedience to God is not a prison sentence. It is shelter in a castle against a torrent of pain, aggression, and death.

How do you get through to a stiff-necked people? How do you make your point to a defiant child determined to touch the stove after repeated warnings not to. Sometimes you allow them to experience the results of the choices they are determined to make. Just a few of the natural consequences of the evil choices we make are usually enough to ‘wake us up’. The entire Old Testament in the Bible is a love letter from an unrequited God reaching out desperately to an unfaithful partner. Despite gifts and blessings, in the face of shear ingratitude, enduring slander and lies, love still reaches out for us. But we ignore it, and steadfastly choose our own demise. So from time to time God removes his protective hand, and evil is given enough latitude to remind us what its true nature is really like.

Again this is not a punishment of God. This is only Him allowing just a little of the fury we embrace to come our way. Were God to completely remove His protecting hand from over us, we would be consumed in our evil in seconds. Cause and effect. Demons who have long since chosen their own destiny would be happy to destroy us completely and in so doing cause pain to our Father God, were He to allow it. We rarely see the battlefield we are walking through. We rarely understand the ferocity of evil that knows its time is drawing to a conclusion. Desperation leads to even more fury and we act as if it does not even exist.

To call God a dictator because he naturally embodies the complete definition of love, is the same as railing against gravity for having the audacity to keep you grounded on this earth. It serves no purpose, and is completely without meaning. God is love. The creator God who existed before time and memorial could be nothing else but love, or he would have naturally expired and existence would not exist. There would eventually be nothing left under the government of Satan. Even He would eventually kill himself when there was nothing left to consume. It is the natural end-state of anything that is not comprised of love and life.

Obedience then is not about threats or punishments, or even cause and effect, so much as it is about teaching and guidance. We are given rules, directives, advice, and edicts as a way of teaching us that some of our natural desires that are carnally based and routed in heredity of hundreds of years are not the ways of love or life. We are given ‘commandments’ to teach us the definition of love. Think of them as a how-to, or a book of love for idiots. Morality is more than just the subjective measurement of one man over another, it is an objective standard which is defined through the practice of love by the author of love itself.

Amy Grant (and perhaps Brown Bannister if I recall), used to sing the song “I Have Decided”. Part of the lyrics read … “being good is just a fable. I just can’t cause I’m not able. I’m gonna leave it with the Lord.” I used to think this song was incorrect. I judged that being good is not a fable, and we could choose to do it. I was partially correct, but the song was more so. We have the choice to Obey, in that we have the choice to allow God to control our lives and our will. When we release control to God, He changes us. ONLY in this way is obedience even possible. Now think this through for just a minute. Not only is Obedience not used by God as a threat; God knows HE is the ONLY one who can affect obedience in our lives. We CANNOT obey on our own. We can only choose to allow God control over us, and in so doing find ourselves in obedience. This destroys the concept of a dictator. What dictator did you ever hear of that would do the work FOR you, within you, and only hold you accountable to PERMIT Him to do so?

“To Obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of Rams.” What the prophet was conveying in this scripture could be applied in our vernacular as … to allow God control over our will, is to learn reform, to learn change. And to reform is better than to repent. And to listen is better than to regret. Seeking to align our characters with our God and to find His ways natural to us, is far better than to simply rely on repentance for continually embracing evil, pain, and death.

Everything God has ever done, in scripture, and in your day to day life, has been about leading us all back to Him. He has been our ever patient teacher, outlining how to live with meaning, how to love, and what is important. Sometimes the nature of our hardened hearts has led to lessons that seem harsh. Sometimes our blindness to the extent to which evil would lead us, has led to eye-opening seemingly destructive lessons that break our hearts, and humble our prides. But were it not so, we would be lost without hope. We must trust our teacher, that to learn the ways of love and life is a prize unto itself. It is a reward unto itself. It is the kingdom of Heaven begun right here and right now …

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