Friday, February 06, 2009
Obedience For Dogs & Me
My daughter has a Nintendo DS. Yes, my wife and I actually chose to give it to her for Christmas. What evil thing does that say about us?! Hmm…
Anyway, she has this game where she gets and trains puppies, raising them from puppiness through adultness. To do it, she gives them behavioral commands like “Lie down!” and “Sit!” and “Roll over!” Sometimes the Nintendo dogs obey, and sometimes they don’t, which provokes my daughter to say it again—a little more strongly. It’s funny because not only does she speak with clarity and deep authority (well, at least it sounds pretty convincing for a girl her age), but our own dog, sitting next to her, carries out the commands. Well, some of the commands.
And I wondered, “If my daughter said those commands with an encouraging tone, a really upbeat inflection, would the dogs follow through and obey more readily or less?” And that got me thinking.
What if I thought of God’s commands to me as wonderful, life-securing and encouraging orders, instead of grumpy and foreboding demands? I mean, I know God is always correct and spot-on in His assessment of everything, so why does my fleshly mind attach a doom and gloom tone to His directions? Does the Spirit talk to me in the same manner as He would to, say, Pharaoh? Jezebel? Nebuchadnezzar? Or, how about the devil? Same?
If I was hanging out with Pharaoh one day and God showed up with something to say, would His commands to me sound the same as those to Pharaoh? Of course, I suppose we’d have to make certain exceptions for content. “Pharaoh, you brutal subjugator of my people, take out the trash...and then go to Sheol.” And, turning to me, “Ralph, you greatly favored, heaven-bound son of mine, take out the trash.” Would it all sound the same?
I don’t think so.
There are those who think obedience is the most important part of the Christian life—I’m not one of them. I think believing God is first. And while the obedience-is-king crowd might say, “Well, of course believing is first,” I don’t think they really mean it, especially because they often come across as stern and dour, obedience monitors among us. They major in it, and we’ve noticed.
I think the reason many of us fail to obey the New Testament oriented commands of God is because we think they come to us from a sort of high school principal—Do this, Ralph, and you won’t get into trouble. So, the only thing I believe at that moment is, “Well, I’d better do it, or I’ll get detention.” See what I mean? My belief is in avoiding the consequences of disobeying authority, not in the brilliance and well-intentioned motives of the trustworthy principal. That sounds like a dog’s life, doesn’t it? Do the right thing, or you’ll get a boot across your back-side, you mangy mutts. Is that all we are to God, a special pack of dogs? To be certain, obedience is a vital, indispensable part of Christian life, but why we obey is, I believe, even more important.
So, today I’m doing what God says to do because it’s coming from my Father, who is perfect in love, perfect in knowledge and grace, and perfect in how He sees and treats me. I have a pretty good idea of what He did for me and to me through Christ, and I have a decent idea of what He thinks of me. It’s pretty fantastic.
He’s amazing, and He’s amazing toward me—I believe that, and I believe Him. Obedience comes from there.