Friday, March 13, 2009

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Single-Minded Obedience: No Qualifiers

My friend Sarah and I are reading Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship together, and so far, it has been both tremendously thought-provoking and thoroughly convicting. We just finshed chapter 3, titled "Single-Minded Obedience." Bonhoeffer's point is that we often try to discuss the commands of Christ too much, to figure out what is relevant in our current situation, to analyze "What did the Lord really mean for me here and now?" and so forth.

Bonhoeffer urges his readers instead to obey single-mindedly; he claims we will not understand how to obey until we actually obey. Sarah and I realized that this is very much how you train a child. That 3-year-old doesn't understand even what to do sometimes until he or she attempts it and is corrected or steered in the right direction. But am I, as the parent, more upset at defiance, questioning, hemming and hawing or at an incorrectly done task--but one that was attempted promptly nonetheless? Of course I'd rather see an attempt to obey than have my authority challenged. 

It seems Bonhoeffer's point in reference to our following Christ is similar. It is not imperative that we understand the nitty gritty. It is important that we obey. He's reiterated countless times so far that obedience and faith go hand in hand; the more we do/have of the one, the more the other follows. And, Christ initiates the situation in which we can have faith or obey in the first place. It is all at His direction and under His providence.

Of course, Sarah and I immediately thought of situations in which we wouldn't know exactly how to obey and were we to obey single-mindedly without questioning? But then, we realized that there are an amazing number of commands and directives in Scripture that come with no qualifiers: for those, it is easy to see how to obey and when-->always! For instance, consider the following commands (and notice what a difference it would make if we always obeyed--in your home, your work place, your interactions with the world):
  • Be joyful always
  • Pray continually
  • Do everything with complaining or arguing
  • Give generously
  • Practice hospitality
  • Give thanks in all things
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength
  • Pray for those who persecute you
  • Train up a child in the way he should go
  • Respect your husbands
  • Seek wisdom
The list could go on and on! So, our challenge is not to sit around mulling over the grayer aspects of what obedience to the Lord looks like. We have quite a few directives in Scripture that are not remotely bound by culture, location, time, situation.... No doubt, as we grow closer to the Lord through obedience and faith, the Spirit will enhable us to discern what that obedience looks like in different situations. Our task is to obey, not always understand. And, thank the Lord that His Holy Spirit is in believers enabling them to obey, that Christ's righteousness has been imputed to us, that we do not have to stand before the Lord based on our own merit--especially since one of the commands issued by Christ in the gospels is to be perfect....

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