Psalm 34:2, 9, 17-18, 19-20
“We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
Obedience… not an easy term for me. Indeed, when obedience is asked of me, strong resistance emerges in me. The term evokes a strong sense of rebellion. Something deep inside me responds with a passionate, almost immediate, “No!”
Yet, in today’s reading from Acts, we find the Apostles defying the Sanhedrin—actively drawing strength from and taking on the mantle of obedience to God’s will, even when obedience opens them to Sanhedrin wrath. For the Apostles, obedience seems an expression of inner truth—a truth that must be lived out, even in the face of probable death. From them, obedience evokes a passionate, “Yes!”
Whoa! That contrast between my reaction and that of the Apostles is enormous. Why? What is it about being asked to obey that brings such different responses?
For me, the term “obedience” conjures up a host of images—none of them positive. I see myself being subject to… power over … oppression… subjugation… dominance… control… and, conversely, I feel myself being asked to experience… powerlessness… loss of control… invisibility… loss of self… silencing. In essence, I hear the word obedience as requiring an abdication of who I am. Is it any wonder that I respond as I do? And, yet, I cannot remember a time when I did not find the term “obedience” evoking such a response in me.
Surely, obedience to God’s will—the obedience that gave the Apostles such strength and conviction—is not the same. What am I missing?
As I have pondered this scripture, I have listened deeply for the voice of the Spirit, trying to open my heart to hear the wisdom I am to take into myself. And, as I did so, I began to see that my response to the word obedience is based in an understanding of God as “out there”—“up there”—standing in judgment of everything I do and my inevitably falling short.
But, is that really my—our—relationship with God? I used to think so, but I no longer do. Those are the images of my childhood. As the years have passed, I have learned—and continue to learn and re-learn—that my life and work exist only in relationship to God, a relationship of Love. God is not “out there”—God is here, within my heart, in the touch and love of others. God is with me in every moment of every day. God is not “up there”—God is the very ground of my being. And, if I “allow it,” my relationship with God is an incredible journey of Love.
From that standpoint, I think, obedience is not about God’s power
over me, but rather my acknowledging the ground of my being and opening
myself to allowing God’s power and love to flow through me.
In that sense, obedience is an active living into all that I was created
to be—an authentic, emphatic, “Yes!!” Can I—like the Apostles—stand
on that promise? I pray it may be so.
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