Friday, December 9, 2016

Young and Pressured | idolatrous obedience

For this series' introduction, see this post. For more posts in the series, here's post one, two, three, and four. For background of where this idea came from, read my Rebelution article.  


<< In Pursuit of the Good Life | five >>


7:50am seemed to come too soon each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (although I actually am a morning person).

It was the penultimate class session of Honors Systematic Theology, and if you thought your mornings were unusual, try discussing the intricacies of Calvinism, the problem of evil, and human freedom with about twenty other about twenty year olds when you've hardly been awake for half an hour.

It was my turn to lead discussion. White paper crinkling with my page flip, I read my fourth question aloud:


"The author gives Abraham as a positive example of living: "he was willing to risk everything, in order to be in obedient communion with God, having faith that God would provide a sacrifice (Gen. 22:14)" (190). We're further told to live a "given over" lifestyle of self-sacrifice, following the example of Jesus (193). Has the concept of "risking everything," being "sold-out for Jesus," and being tapped into the Gospel's power grown out of proportion?


Her hand immediately shot up from the back of the room, and my blue-squared-glasses, black-brown long bobbed (not) Calvinist candor-spewer spoke up: This is something I'm really passionate about. I think this concept has gone way out of proportion.

Red Christmas-sweatered, orange haired graphic designer spoke up, too. Do we have the wrong concept of obedience?

You see, if we are so frustrated that we're not living "sold-out," what's behind this frustration? Do we think that, if we are not "sold-out," then we are not pleasing God -- that this "sold-outness" is what obedience must look like?

This seems much more likely.  

Not sold-out "enough" (not going to that foreign country, not talking about Jesus profusely to every person we meet, not having "profitable enough" quiet times), we are not obedient enough. Lacking obedience, we are displeasing God (the last thing we want).


You see, our desire to obey and please God may be taking away our ability to actually do precisely this. We desire obedience to the point that our "obedience" isn't what it could be. 


Instead of speaking kindly (and thanking the One who is the most kind), we chastise ourselves over how we could have spoken more kindly and then maybe we would have had that conversation that would lead us to our ultimate, "fulfilled" destiny of moving abroad and helping orphans (because this is the destiny most pleasing to the Lord).

We are never "good enough" in our obedience, and it keeps our obedience from being focused on the Savior as we focus on us, the sinner.

To put it bluntly, our obedience is becoming our idol.

We can become more concerned with achieving the God-pleasing level of obedience that we neglect being focused on the God we are trying to please.

To put it bluntly, in our idolatrous excuse for obedience, we are loving ourselves more than we are loving the Lord.

"If only we served him more deeply..." "If only we lived a life a little more 'sold-out'..." What's in those questions? We. We is central.

Our idolatry requires repentance, and it requires a change in the way we think. What if we stopped keeping such close tabs on ourselves to the point that all we see is us and our tabs? What if we decided to simply commit each day to the Lord and trusted that, as He knows our hearts are set on obedience, He's going to continue to guide?

What if we simply accepted the idea that God has placed us where we are for a purpose, and maybe the biggest "missing it" with our lives is when we miss Him and what He has for us in each moment?

  • What if we chose to obey in our minds? Obey by thinking of what is right, excellent, and worthy or praise (Philippians 4:8)? 
  • What if we let our "good enough" or "not good enough" actions take a secondary role?
  • What if we let the reality of His goodness give us peace despite our "striving"?
  • What if we accepted we are not perfect but this gives us a perfect opportunity to be perfectly dependent on Him?

I don't know exactly what this would look like, but I say let's find out.

© 2016 Deborah Hope Shining
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3 comments:

  1. I love your thoughts and how you honestly say you don't know what this looks like. I think you are right on about this. Our selfishness can come about in ways that we mistake as being "good" and "obedient." I've heard a sermon about evil being disguised as good. It's a scary thought, but we need to watch our intentions and make sure we aren't making an idol out of something, even if that idol does seem "good."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your thoughts and how you honestly say you don't know what this looks like. I think you are right on about this. Our selfishness can come about in ways that we mistake as being "good" and "obedient." I've heard a sermon about evil being disguised as good. It's a scary thought, but we need to watch our intentions and make sure we aren't making an idol out of something, even if that idol does seem "good."

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have grown weary of the language of being sold out. It's true. My question in all of this would be what does the normal faithful Christian life look like, rather than the extreme heightened versions of being sold out?

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