If we’re making the rules … then where does that leave “obedience?”
Its really a very interesting dilemma. As Christians, if “we” are the ones that set the rules to live by, then where does that leave us when Jesus makes statements like He did in John 14:15? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” It seems to me that God is quite capable of giving His people instructions, in fact we see that all through Scripture. God giving instructions on how to live, what to do and what not to do.
Then comes the issue of sexuality in the UMC. I know, I know, Jesus never said anything about human sexuality, but what He did do was to affirm the validity and truth of God’s Holy Word in Scripture. If Jesus insist on obedience to Himself, and by His affirmation Scripture also, would it be fair of Him not to tell us what to do? I don’t think so. In fact, it would be a sick joke of sorts to insist on obedience and then say “you figure it out.”
When the topic of Biblical obedience comes up, ultimately the Old Testament laws that we do not follow anymore are mentioned. This is a heavy and huge issue that deserves explanation in a future blog. This issue centers around the culture, the types of laws, such as being civil, ceremonial or moral in nature, and also the issue of God’s requirement of obedience. I’ll be writing on that soon.
But our dilemma today is one of following the churches interpretation of God’s requirement of obedience and exactly what the rules are. Do we as human beings have the right to interpret holy laws, or are we simply conforming to the world? When we earnestly pray and seek God’s Spirit to guide us, and don’t receive the outcome we desired, does that mean that God rejected our plea? Or are we becoming worldly and simply pouting?
If God can create life from nothing, if God can know me before I was ever conceived, if God can do all of the stuff, He says He can in Scripture, can He not write me a love letter and give me instructions on how to live for Him? Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t like what happened at the GC2019 either. It simply comes down to this; God what do You want me to do? How do You want me to live? I realize I might not like it, or agree with it, but do You really require me to place Your will over my natural instincts and ingrained human desires? Is that what You mean when You say to love You with everything I have?
Yes, yes, yes, I remember what Jesus said…
Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If love is all that is required and takes precedence over obedience, then why did Jesus have to die for sin? Is the issue of obedience summed up in verse 37 where Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind?” I believe that Jesus is the ultimate example of living a life that honors God and serves Him faithfully. Jesus didn’t just love God the Father, He died on a cross because of His obedience to the will of God. I guess that brings up the question for me; what am I dying for in obedience to God? My will? My natural desires and inclinations? My preferences? My understanding of what “love” is? Did Jesus not subdue all of His human nature for the sake of an obedient death on the cross?
Today you hear a lot about love and inclusivity. Jesus was a wonderful example of both. He accepted everyone, went to everyone and showed His love to everyone. But in no way did Jesus ever demonstrate that love means acceptance of behaviors that are deemed sinful in Scripture. I know that this idea is unpopular. Jesus was constantly telling people to change their hearts, to turn away from sinful behavior, not celebrate it. This concept goes way back into the Old Testament.
Joel 2:13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Was Eve totally responsible for her actions that day in the Garden, or was she drawn to the tree because of her God given inquisitive nature? Was Cain totally responsible for his act of murder against his brother Able? Wasn’t his nature designed by God? Was the jealousy in his heart towards his brother a natural aspect of who he was? And it goes on. Did Noah have to overcome his human nature to devote his life to such a ridiculous task of building a ship in the middle of nowhere? What about Abraham? Did he have to overcome any aspects of how he was created to trust in God and actually raise the knife to his own son? Then there is Moses, what struggles did he have in overcoming his nature in order to live an obedient life before God?
There are no easy answers. And to simply say that “loving” everyone means to accept every type of behavior I believe is wrong. This doesn’t mean that I like it. In the Christian walk, human nature has to be overcome. Jesus demonstrated this, in that He included everyone, but never condoned behaviors that scripture deemed as sinful and we might deem at natural. Can we not follow His example and live according to God’s Word?