A conversation at church this week got me thinking about the Biblical use of the word "obedience." I've noticed that people who like that word, who are drawn to it and feel inclined to turn all faith-talk around to this word, this word obedience, tend to be rule-oriented people with stern attitudes about those who fall short of their notions of the right and proper and God-honoring.
Me, I'm not particularly drawn to this word. It daunts me. I see its use in 1 Peter, for example, and I cringe a little. Because by any standard, I'm not one of the obedient ones. Anyway, here's the passage in 1 Peter (first chapter, beginning at verse 13) that provoked these ruminations:
When I think of obedience, I think of specific ways that I'm not. We won't go into details here. No need. But immediately my mind goes to a daunting checklist of dos and don'ts. Still, I like to remember what Paul wrote to the Roman Christians (13:8f) about this very issue:
Really, the problem of obedience, looked at in this light, seems to be a problem about loving God. Loving anyone apart from ourselves is, we should admit right off, not something we normally do real well. This is the problem after all that is at the root of all problems. The problem of broken marriages, the problem of strife between generations, or races, or nations.The lack of peace in this world. The lack of patience. The lack of forgiving. It all comes down to not loving God and neighbor.
Okay, you may not agree with that, you may think it all comes down to not loving one another, period, with no loving God being necessary. Fine. But whichever way you look at it, it's a big problem, this problem of love. It is The Problem, which is what I'm going to call this post I guess. The Love Problem. All our talk, as Christians, about this matter of obedience just sounds like chatter to me, for it almost always misses the point that Paul will not let us miss. The issue at the root of all disobedience is all about love.