It’s zero-dark-thirty in the morning and you are on a major road going home. You are stuck at a red light: there isn’t a car in sight in any direction. Do you just go through the light or do you wait for it to turn green?
I confess I might go through it. I have been in that situation more than once, and usually I do wait (no, I am not a major party animal. As an IT guy sometimes I have had to stay really late to get upgrades completed after hours. No…really!)
They say that honesty is doing what you know you’re supposed to do, even when you’re positive that no one will ever find out. For those of us who know and worship the Lord, we understand that while no person may ever find out, nothing is hidden from God. So, do we not go through the red light because we know that is the right thing to do, or do we not go through because there could be someone watching that we don’t see?
In other words, do we obey because we want to obey, or do we obey because we are afraid of the consequences when we don’t?
I bet you can see where this is going….Yeshua said if we love Him we will do what He says, and we are also commanded to love God and love each other. In the very same breath we are also told that if we disobey we will be cursed. Obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings suffering, so do we really have a choice?
It doesn’t seem so, does it? Yet, God gives us free will, and even those that not just ignore Him, but outright reject that He even exists, are often “blessed” with riches and fame.
Or are they? Just because someone has all they could want doesn’t mean it comes from God. There is another power that has control over the worldly things that people crave. And his retirement plan is very different from the one God offers.
Should we obey from love or from the fear of retribution and punishment?
We are told that God was sickened and disgusted with the sacrifices offered to Him by the Judeans when these sacrifices were done along side sacrifices to Ba’al, Asherah, Molech, and the other Semitic gods that they worshipped before they were taken into captivity. They obeyed His commands, but he didn’t want their sacrifices because there was no love or true worship behind them. How often are we told in the Book of Nevi’im (Prophets), again and again, that the blood of bulls and sheep means less to God than obedience. Here it is clear that God wants obedience from the heart, not just going through the motions. Does that mean that if we go through the motions they won’t be accepted? Remember Cain? Cain went through the motions and his offerings weren’t accepted, were they?
I think the answer is that God wants us to love Him as He loves us, and to show that love by loving each other as we would want them to love us.
WOW!! Steve!! What a revelation! You’ve changed my life, Man!!
Yeah, yeah….I know. I am stating the obvious (did you catch the cynicism there?) but as obvious as that is, can you tell me why we still don’t do it? I think the answer is just as obvious: people that regularly do not obey the Lord are people that don’t love Him. And that includes professed “Believers.” As such, those who regularly disobey because their heart tells them to disobey (although that may not be how they see it) are doomed people. God tells us, more than once, that we should choose life and not death- He lays it out simply: if we do as He says, we live in His presence and if we don’t do as He says (in other words, we reject Him), then He will reject us.
The good news is that love is absolutely unstable and untrustworthy: that which we hate today we can love tomorrow, and vice-versa. People who hate the Lord have turned to Him and become strong and fruitful followers, and those raised with God who always thought they loved Him can turn against Him as soon as they hit real strife, such as loss of a loved one. So we need to be aware that our love for God is as fragile as the human spirit, and only God’s spirit is strong enough to get us through the horrors of living. Therefore, rely on God and don’t trust yourself.
The answer, for me, is that we obey God because we love Him and from fear of the consequences of disobedience. I think that is OK because we are, in our very nature, sinful sinners and sin is always crouching at our door. The more we love the Lord the easier it is to obey, but it certainly helps overcome the weakness of the flesh when we realize that disobedience carries consequences we don’t want.
Yeshua told the parable about the good son, remember? Even though he refused to do as his father asked initially, for whatever reason he changed his mind later and did as asked, and for that he was recognized as a better son than the one who happily and immediately said he would do as the father asked, but never got around to it. I think one lesson here is that our heart may initially reject what God asks of us because we love ourselves more than Him, but that can be overcome. Maybe not at first, maybe not right away, but it can be overcome, eventually. And let me add this: when we have the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, living within us and when we listen to that spirit talking to us, we can more easily overcome the flesh because we want to.
There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. When we stop at the red light, even though we can go through, we are obeying the spirit of the law. To obey the spirit of the law of God, we need His spirit guiding us. If we only want to obey the letter of the law, that is what Shaul (Paul) called being “under the law”, i.e. trying to gain salvation by doing what we are supposed to do, whether we want to or not. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that it is impossible for us to do that, because God really wants us to obey the spirit of the law. That is a heartfelt obedience, that is doing what He wants because doing so will please Him. That is obedience from love.
Next time you come to a red light, and there is absolutely no one around, what do you think you will do? Now ask yourself, “Why?”