I entered Christianity as a rebel. The better part of my adult life was doing the exact opposite of what I was taught to do. I am a free spirited person. I don’t like rules and structure. I believe in ordered chaos. I know that is weird. Here is what I mean; my house is messy but I know where everything is in the mess. When things are organized, as most people would define organized, I can’t find anything. If a person with an administrative gifting is a type A personality, then I would be type Z. A type A personality who doesn’t know Jesus would love to grab hold of me and teach me a little about organization, structure and following the rules. I would in turn take the example of structure and organization, tear it to shreds and walk away feeling quite satisfied while my type A counterpart would be very upset. I’ll do it my way, thank you very much!
When I heard that Christianity requires obedience it tweaked me. Could I love Jesus enough to become a rule follower? At least that is how I saw it in the moment. I believed that obedience was rule following. It was adhering to structure and being a follower. That is just not who I am. I imagine that many people who have not been raised a Christian hear stuff like this and end up running out of church saying “I am not signing up for obedience training!” Truly, me neither! I am not a dog! I am being asked to be a dog! Actually, there is no truth in that. Christians are not dogs. That being said, we are asked to be obedient. Out of love for God, we choose to be obedient.
How does a rebel like me become obedient? It is simple and complex all at the same time. First, I had to stop defining who I am outside of who God says I am. I have a new identity. I am now a child of God. How do we know we are children of God? A person who loves God, has put their trust in Christ, who does what is right, and loves their brothers and sisters in Christ are the children of God (See 1 John 3:10). I have been born again into a new life. Christ is now my life (Colossians 3:4).
The exchange between Simon Peter and Jesus in John 21 reveals what Jesus asks us all to do as his disciples. Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus tells Simon Peter to “feed my lambs.” This exchange happens three times. If we love Jesus, we will feed the lambs. Meaning if we love Jesus, we will love and care for others.
I have had to take the obedience thing in stride. It is easy to turn obedience into religion. That is not what obedience is. God doesn’t love us because we are obedient. We are obedient because we are secure in God’s love for us. The commands are this: “Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-39).” Christianity is not about being obedient to the Old Testament Law. Christianity is not about fulfilling sacraments. It is about love. Galatians 5:14 says, “…the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Obedience is love. If you love, you are obedient. It is that simple.