Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings



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Finding Harmony With All Creation

Obedience is hopelessly out of fashion. The very word obey carries with it ridiculous notions of ancient kingdoms, stupid henchmen, or marital imbalance. Even among parents, the idea that we should teach our children to obey doesn't sound quite right--who are we to demand mindless obedience? Disobedience has always existed, but the idea that our actions should be determined by someone else is passé among North Americans of all kinds: believers and unbelievers alike.

Isaiah dwelt among a people of unclean lips. We dwell among a people of an independent spirit.

Our distrust of obedience flows from our fear of the other--the one whom we are to obey. Why should a woman pledge obedience to a husband who is filled with selfishness and pride? Why should a soldier vow obedience to a government pursuing injustice and oppression? Why would anyone put themselves in the hands of another? We are afraid of the other. What agenda does the other person have? To what purpose does someone else demand we do things his way? Following someone else’s will exposes us to exploitation and opens us to abuse. No one else could possibly have our good as the highest goal. And even if by some crazy chance someone else did have our best interests at heart, how could we be sure they had the wisdom or strength to bring it about?

We refuse to obey because we see the call to obedience as something foreign and alien to our souls. We hear the voice of the Other and put up our defenses because we think something from the outside is trying to invade our lives, our very being. Our life experience has taught us no one possesses the combination of good intentions, perfect wisdom, and effective power to win our trust. We have become convinced we must protect ourselves.

This lies at the heart of our reticence to obey the Heavenly Father. We resist the commands of God because we are not convinced he is good, or his intentions toward us are safe, or he has the wisdom or power to act on our behalf. It is an issue of trust. Church people tell us of his goodness, but our experience and fear tell us otherwise. A drowning man fights against the very lifeguard who is trying to pull him to shore, but the only answer is submission and harmony with the rescue effort. These are the very things our panic and fear tell us to resist. “Work together with me,” says the lifeguard, “and we will get to the shore.”

What if the Person who loves us most is also the one capable of showing us how to live? What if the Person who has the wisdom to see life as it really is the very one whispering instructions to our heart? “This is the way,” he says, and we feel his breath on our face. “Walk in it.” What if the one who has infinite power and authority wants to use his strength for our good? Our struggle flows from the fact that the news is too good to believe: the most powerful Being in the universe is also the one who loves us most. We are afraid of power because we have seen its abuse. We distrust good intentions because we are sure no one has the wisdom to navigate the maze of life.

It requires a daring imagination: what if we were created to sing in harmony with the One who writes the perfect song? To resist him would be to resist our own good. To harmonize with him would be to sing the song of life. What if obedience is not the requirement of an alien invasion but an invitation to our highest good? What if a life of submission is actually walking in concert with perfect love? All fear would be gone. Our stumblings would be met with our own desire to get back in step.

There is more good news to believe, even for those of us who call ourselves people of faith. We must dare to believe that the One loves us most is the truest guide, the surest hand, and fully capable of showing us the way. His way really is the best thing for us. We must see obedience as harmony with the Source of life, not rules and laws and regulations and requirements and chains and bondage. We must discover again that He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Reader Comments (9)

In my heart and mind with experience it is more than, "We must dare to believe that the One loves us most is the truest guide". If we don't trust Him to be our guide we won't dare to risk giving up our entire life to become His disciple (Luke 14:26, 27).

When in combat if a soldier does not listen to or trust in the ranking member there is chaos and the entire squad is at dire risk not to survive. I will testify to that fact from experience. When accepting the authority of the ranking member more, much more, survive than when not united as a team. The difference I see is that Jesus is more than capable to be able to promise a life after this should we lose ours while following Him. When I was ranking I could not promise that but I did promise to bring back as many as I could.

The only thing God requires of us to live long and prosper is to accept His authority over any other. When we do so it is not only possible but easy to fully honor Luke 10:27 and inherit as His child eternal life.

August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

Hi Herm: Unquestionably, He is the Supreme Authority. But we learn from His own example that he wants more than hierarchy--he wants our hearts. In my experience, when one's heart is settled regarding the Father's goodness, everything else falls in line. Peace to you!

August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

Obedience or disobedience is seldom "mindless". Those who rail up against the authority that is over them, often claim that it is, but the truth it takes a great act of the mind/will to do either...

August 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave Haibach

Hi Dave: Of course, I agree. Obedience takes heart, soul, and mind. Once again, the true issue is trust--do we trust the one we are called to obey?

August 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

Ray, you nailed this truth: "We resist the commands of God because we are not convinced he is good, or his intentions toward us are safe, or he has the wisdom or power to act on our behalf. It is an issue of trust."

It took me a while to realize that my understanding of God's love for me, and my trust in him, were so inextricably linked.

August 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin T. (@kt_writes)

Thanks, Kristin: one of the unlookedfor aspects of encountering perfect love (combined with perfect power) is we don't realize how deeply we have been wounded by imperfect love and imperfect power. The sad lessons of life are deeply ingrained--don't trust!--either motive or ability. When those barriers are removed by the Father's perfect love, we discover the shell we've constructed around ourselves.

August 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

A physical example that helps to understand obedience to the Creator’s laws is in what we call the laws of physics. We have the choice to rebel and ignore those physical laws equally as well as any of His other relational and spiritual laws. If we honor all His laws we survive fruitfully for that is their only purpose. Personally, I like the law of gravity for it keeps me well grounded except in trusting my own ignorance (or ignorant and self serving advice from others) I overstep my bounds near the thousand foot cliff; then gravity sucks once and for all. Luke 10:25-37 is “all” we need to honor and choosing to do so survive fruitfully.

August 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

I am not sure that I fully agree with your stance on this topic. My dissobedience does not stem from a lack of faith in God's goodness nor an ability to trust him. I am fully and truely convinced that God always has my best in mind, and also that my best will work toward his best - the ultimate end goal. My dissobedience stems from selfishness. I like to be in control. I like making decisions. I don't WANT to give up my rights, my supposed freedom, in order to blindly follow another and have all other options closed to me. I believe the important thing to remember is that God, in his goodness, understands this and has designed the universin in such a way that I CAN have options and make decisions while still walking fulliy within the will of the Father. It is not always distrust that leads to dissobedience, but stuborness and a desire for control.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

Hi Bonnie: Thanks for dropping by--you're always welcome. In this you are correct: there are other motivations for disobedience beside lack of trust. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

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