Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Love Problem

So I'm certainly not much of a blogger these days, despite occasional rash determinations that I will do so on some sort of regular basis. Here, how 'bout this one: I will post something at A Stranger Here every Saturday. Yessir, every dang Saturday. Something. 

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:
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and agave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, clove one another earnestly from a pure heart,23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God... 
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:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
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.

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