What is Obedience?

When we think of the word ‘obedience,’ we often think of having dominion over something. Like telling a dog to sit or lay down, or leading a horse by nudges and clicks, or even telling our children to do something. The idea we most often think of is, “Do what I say, when I say to do it.” Although this is an accurate representation of a type of obedience, this idea does not cover the full intention of what biblical obedience is and, unfortunately, this idea of “ultimate submission or else” is the way that people see God and his relationship with mankind.

Peter uses the word ‘obedience’ in 1 Peter 1:22 when he writes, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” When he writes this, the term obedience is not about submission against will, but attentive hearing; thus obedience as the result of in-depth listening. Listening to what? The gospel message.

Peter is writing that those who hear the gospel message of Christ are presented with a choice and the choice is to believe or not to believe that Jesus is the savior sent to mankind by God. Those who listen attentively to what is being presented and choose to put Christ on in baptism & follow his teachings, then, willingly submit themselves to God. Not because God said to, but because those who have been saved from eternal separation want to be in submission to His moral authority. Obedience is a choice that comes by hearing the good news, not by God’s force upon us. One will either choose to obey or not to.

Those who truly understand the opportunity that God has presented to mankind through Jesus the Christ understand that obedience is not a dirty word. God gives us the chance to make our own decisions and to obey him is the choice of those who listen attentively and decide to follow what is true. Obedience leads us to humble ourselves and give glory to God for saving us from what we cannot save ourselves from, eternal separation from him. This week I challenge us to submit to God not because we feel that we have to, but because we want to genuinely serve the God who provides us a way back into his presence.