“obey.” I don’t like this word. I don’t actually know many people who do–except maybe police and librarians. Probably teachers too. I know my kids have absolutely NO concept of the word ‘obey.’ Pretty much the only thing in our house who obeys me is the dog but that’s because she cannot feed herself. I know I left the word out of MY wedding ceremony and I doubt I’m the only one.
I’ve actually been thinking about this word for a week now (thanks Brenda) because of a weekly Bible study I attend. The scripture we meditated on was:
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23, NIV
We are supposed to meditate on the scripture and pick a word that stands out to us. I’ll give you two guesses what my word was and the first one doesn’t count. OBEY. It really stood out as a terrible word. The whole scripture verse seemed very conditional. IF you love me, THEN you will obey. THEN my father will love you.
I’m a flawed and very disobedient person. Anyone will tell you that. And don’t speak all at once, now. Let’s remember the whole, “casting the first stone” and all.
But seriously, is God putting conditions on his love? Our small group was rather divided by the passage and the optimists in the group put more of a focus on the latter half of the scripture: “we will come and make our home with each of them.”
Being that my meds aren’t properly adjusted, I’ve spent the last week thinking about this scripture. How can God have conditional love? How can I always obey Him? I can’t, I’m human. And worse, I’m Rebecca which means I’m even more flawed and disobedient than most. Again, don’t all go agreeing so quickly.
I went to BibleGateway and started looking up the scripture under different translations, hoping to get away from the “obey.” The Message says:
If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words.
Better, but The Message has always been a little too casual for me. Whenever I read it I see Jesus wearing a Grateful Dead shirt (ha! get it?)
The King James version goes:
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
Much better, but just as The Message is too casual, the King James is a little too formal. To many ‘unto’s’ and ‘begat’s’ for me to focus on.
The New King James seemed to work the best for me:
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
Keep his word–that sounds a lot better than ‘obey.’ But I decided to turn to my trusty dictionary to understand the definition of ‘obey.’
OBEY: comply with the command, direction, or request of (a person or a law); submit to the authority of : I always obey my father.
- carry out (a command or instruction) : the officer was convicted for refusing to obey orders | [ intrans. ] when the order was repeated, he refused to obey.
- behave in accordance with (a general principle, natural law, etc.) : the universe was complex but it obeyed certain rules.
It still made me feel so trapped–not that I don’t want to follow God’s will, not that I don’t want to submit to his authority but that, if I didn’t, it somehow meant I didn’t love him.
While I’ve been chewing on this passage, I was crocheting (I know, big surprise) and the top of the had wasn’t working out. It wasn’t flat; it was curling. I couldn’t remember what row I was on, and even counting them was proving difficult (because it was a spiral, not because I’m stupid). I ripped it back and started again. Rechained it, joined it, was doing the single crochet (stick with me here, I’m really not giving you a crochet lesson), was single crocheting twice into every stitch…still not working. Then I did something REALYY crazy. I looked at the directions.
And realized I wasn’t following them correctly. I was single crocheting into every stitch instead of every other. And if I didn’t follow the directions, the hat wasn’t going to look right. And I loved the pattern, it was the third time I’d made this hat and I “thought” I knew what I was doing and that I didn’t need to read the instructions.
But if I loved the pattern, I had to follow it–or obey it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t crochet what I wanted. I wouldn’t have the hat that I wanted and loved. The hat that I wanted wouldn’t be in my house.
It didn’t mean that the pattern was wrong. The pattern wasn’t asking me to be submissive or controlled. It was simply saying, “This is what you need to do if you want this hat to look the way you want it to look.”
If I love God, I will obey him. Following his instructions will get me where I need to be.
I then remembered what Nicky Gumbel talked about in the Alpha Course that I took. He told the story of kids trying to play soccer when there wasn’t a referee. Nicky decided that he would help out and be the referee. Only he didn’t have the slightest clue about the rules of play. Without anyone giving the kids rules and guidelines for them to obey, chaos reigned. Kids got hurt and frustrated because they weren’t sure where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to be doing.
Luckily, for the kids, the referee finally did arrive and they did get to play a nice safe game. But Nicky’s point, and my crochet pattern’s point, was that you must OBEY certain rules in order to get what you want–whether it is a safe game or a hat.
Rules keep us safe–they give us boundaries and let us know what the results will be if we follow them.
Obey suddenly isn’t so conditional to me. It’s a safety net that God gives us to protect us and give us guidance.