Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Trust and Obey?

Obedient - submissive to the restraint or command of authority: willing to obey.

If you grew up in church, chances are you have heard the song "Trust and Obey". Church folks love to teach that to kids. Me? Never a big fan of that song. Not because I don't think it's important for us to trust and obey God. I really do believe that. I just take issue with the lyrics:

Trust and obey,
for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey

Because you see, sometimes I don't want to be told to obey. For me, that song seems almost like a threat. "You had better obey what I'm telling you if you want to be happy in Jesus."

Nobody likes ultimatums.

I didn't give my life to Christ because someone told me if I didn't I was going to hell. I gave my life to Christ because I finally understood the depth of His love for me. You can't force willful obedience any more than you can force someone to accept Christ. They have to come to both willingly if either is to be sincere.

I know I've posted the following quote on numerous occasions - here and elsewhere, and I may be getting off on a bit of a tangent, but it's probably my favorite quote on Christianity of all times, so I'll share it again:

The only thing worse than the joke you don't get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect.

And so, here I go -- me and a dozen thousand other people -- trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put faith in Him, and what all of that won't mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may be fine as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough.

But then I remember two things. The first thing I remember is how I once won an argument with a heathen friend of mine who -- after I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth -- blew me away by simply saying, "I do not want to be a Christian. I don't want your Jesus Christ." There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.

So the second thing I remember is this:

I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a presence that is more than convincing, it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. "If I be lifted up," Jesus said, "I will draw all men unto me."

So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation of a joke you've already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain. Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.

-Rich Mullins


JML said...

Very nice. I kinda had this discussion with a friend today as we discussed predestination. Would any of us feel satisfied if the significant other was simply forced to love us? I didn't think so. . .

Shark Bait said...

I like to argue.
I'm really good at arguing.
I usually win.

I don't think I've ever argued anyone into Heaven.
But I hope I've loved a few people one step closer.


Russell Holloway said...

Maybe God's love in action, is loving us, sending his Son for us, despite our inability to perfectly obey.

Your story about loving people into heaven offers a compelling argument . . . :-)

Heather of the EO said...

I love this post.

For a whole lot of reasons.
(including, but not limited to, my love for Rich Mullins)

Thank you.

Jeff Selph said...

I would say the same as Shark Bait.

And this was a really good post to start my day off with. Thanks for writing it.

Sarah Salter said...

Thinkin' about it now, I can't really think of a time that Jesus begged, argued, or browbeat anybody into following Him. Why is it that sometimes we feel that we have to? Love is the strongest argument we can offer.

Candy said...

He wants us to obey, but first I think He wants us to want to obey. "They have to come to both willingly if either is to be sincere."


Heather Sunseri said...

Perfect message for me this morning and wonderfully written. Thanks, Katdish! I also love that quote.

Doug Spurling said...

I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts

Was it Spurgeon who said something like, In everything you do and everywhere you go, preach the gospel and sometimes if necessary, use words.

Lord help me to be nuts and bolts.

Great post - thank you

Billy Coffey said...

Wow, I love this! Dang you, katdish. You made me think too early in the morning.

Helen said...

Okay. I like the song Trust and Obey (though I can see that using it as a teaching tool for kids might do some provoking...). I do agree with you (and Rich Mullins) that people respond to God's love, not to brilliant arguments.

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes ultimatums...

So true, yet don't we all tend to give them?

I love this post, katdish. It gave me a fresh perspective, and some things to think about...thank you!

jasonS said...

For me, Trust and Obey (the song) doesn't carry a heavy-handed connotation, but I didn't grow up singing it in our church. I do think the thoughts are true, but happiness in the trust and obedience only come from our loving relationship... Just an alternate perspective. :)

Also, "Nobody likes ultimatums." That's true, but I hope everybody likes ultimatoes, my new product that offers the ultimate tomato. Ha!

Beth said...

Jason, You're weird.

Reading Helen's post and then reading this went really nicely together...go team!

Everytime you put that Rich Mullins quote down, it seems like I still can't take it all in at one time. It's that good. :)

Anonymous said...

good quote

Unknown said...

Wonderful words from Rich Mullins... I've never read that quote before but it made me love him more.

Stephanie Wetzel said...

Love the Rich Mullins quote, Kat. And I really love how you explained my natural contrariness.

I never liked Trust and Obey either.

Now I think I know why...

Peter P said...

Oh Katdish... God must love the fight you put up!

I'm glad you wrote this, it helped me a lot.

Fatha Frank said...

Great points! There's a whole chapter in the book UnChristian about, as someone else put it, browbeating others into accepting Christ. Obviously, unbelievers don't appreciate that approach. Love people to heaven- exactly!

@Doug, that quote has actually been attributed to St Francis of Assisi, though there's no historical evidence of that. I believed it showed up as a quote in a late (ie recent) biography. Christianity Today had a whole article on it a few months ago.

Sande said...

Used to feel that "He" needed my words but found out that "He" just wanted me; and then my life became a living word.

His living sold out,totally besotted with, wallowing in Him and His kind of living.