By Joe Chesser
Obeying is not natural for any of us. Think about it. We are born concerned only for ourselves. We cry if we are not fed when we’re hungry, or when our diaper needs changing, or when things don’t go our way. We resist for a while being taught to eat at certain times and to be potty trained. Why? Because obeying seems counterproductive to us. It means giving up our own will and surrendering to someone bigger and stronger and smarter. Obeying is giving up our independence and challenging our pride. Unfortunately, resisting obedience doesn’t stop when we become adults, especially in a society that promotes “my rights”. The outcome of such an attitude is predictable: chaos in families, in communities and nations, and even in churches. For many believers, obedience has become a dirty word, a harsh and ugly concept to be avoided. Words like love and grace and mercy are much more palatable.
However, if we truly want to be like Jesus we cannot overlook the importance of learning obedience. In Hebrews 5.8 it says of Jesus, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Not the only place, but the most obvious place where Jesus learned obedience was at the time of his death. The night before his death he prayed that God would find some way for him to avoid the suffering of the cross: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26.39). Since there was no other way, Jesus obeyed the will of the Father by willingly enduring the cruel suffering of the cross. Even though he was the Son of God, he had to learn obedience from what he suffered.
The next verse, Hebrews 5.9, then calls on us to also learn to obey. “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Because Jesus perfectly obeyed the will of the Father by going to the cross, he not only gave us a perfect example of obedience, he also became the only source of eternal salvation for any of us (John 14.6), and the only way to access that source is by, like Jesus, learning to obey. Again, this points out that obedience is not natural for any of us. It is something that must be learned. But if we will put out the effort to learn obedience, the promised result is eternal life. Jesus put it simply, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14.15 NIV). Paul later wrote that those who will be shut out from the presence of God forever are those who do not know God and those who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1.8-9). Just before Jesus left the earth, he instructed his apostles that those who are baptized are also to be taught “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28.20). Obedience is something to be taught and learned.
It will not come naturally or easily. It takes effort and commitment. But as John wrote, “this is love; that we walk in obedience to his commands” (2 John 1.6).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org'