Benepossiplease – part 1
My last couple of posts have dealt with why God is worth listening to, especially in light of the petty anger and petty jealousy we mistakenly ascribe to God. Even if we get past that, it only takes a look at all the things that religion says to do or not do to get intimidated. Does God really expect us to do or not do all those things? Or, said more precisely, does God really expect us to be obedient? “Obedience” has an interesting etymology: it derives from a Latin word for whose root has more to do with listening than compliance. If that is the case, then maybe the real hurdle with being obedience isn’t knowing what God wants us to do or not do. Maybe it comes down to listening to God’s voice amid all the other voices? How often have we seen God’s dos and don’ts at odds with the don’ts and dos of our culture or our own desires? Probably enough to question whether or not God has our best interest in mind. So that’s where I’d like to start: is obedience to God really beneficial?
If you have ever owned a dog while living in an apartment, you probably have dreamed of the day that you open the back door of your house with a fenced-in yard and let your dog take care of business on her own. That was exactly the case for my wife and I as we walked our two mutts around our apartment complex in summer’s heat and humidity and winter’s cold and rain and snow while praying that the baggie dispensers weren’t empty. So we were extremely pleased the first time that we released Maggie and Sydney into the wilds of our backyard to explore and sniff while we stayed inside. It didn’t take long before we discovered that Maggie had talents that didn’t manifest while on a leash. Namely, she could climb. So by the end of that first spring, our split-rail fence sprouted the yellow wire of an invisible fence to help contain her. By the end of the summer, there were extensions on our fence in key areas where she hopped out. And a few times she even jumped the fence while still tied to our deck.
The fence and invisible fence and extensions are definitely at odds with Maggie’s desire for freedom and food. She doesn’t understand the danger that cars pose or what could happen to her if she made the wrong human or dog mad. The fence protects her from outside dangers and they protect others from her as well. I see God’s rules and regulations working in the same way as that fence: they’re to protect us and to protect others from us. If you look at the Ten Commandments and the commands that Jesus gives, they sound fairly utopian, heaven on earth even. And that is exactly what God intends! If we would only listen to God, we wouldn’t hurt each other or ourselves. Everyone would have what they need to get by. But just like Maggie, we’re given the fence and told to stay within it, whether we obey or not is our choice.
We might be thinking that if this is the case, why doesn’t God say that? Well, he does. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses preps the gathered nation of Israel on how to answer their children’s questions about why the Law exists. Here’s Moses’ answer: “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).
Let’s not miss one last thing: God doesn’t just want us to benefit, God wants the best for us. Lots of voices want the best for us, but no one besides God has been so thoughtful or loving as to detail exactly what “the best” looks like for us. When we look at the laws and commands of the Bible from the perspective that they’re for our benefit (and not to keep us from having fun), we see that love clear as day and can respond with gratitude and love. And that is how we find the greatest benefit of God’s quest for our obedience.