Obedience? Isn’t our life with Jesus a relationship and not a list of rules?
It’s funny isn’t it—we’d never begin a romantic relationship with someone who said we had to both love and obey them. In fact, if our new significant other said, “Now that we’re dating, I expect you to obey me,” we’d set a record for the shortest relationship ever! So how does obedience fit in to a new life with Jesus?
Relationships affect our behavior. Children act in certain ways because of parental expectations. Spouses take each other into account when making decisions. Employees keep the boss’s standards in mind when choosing their priorities.
What is amazing (and complicated) about our relationship with God is that there is no human relationship that can fully portray our relationship with Him. So while we certainly desire to grow in intimacy with Him, part of how we get to know what He cares about is through living how He told us we should live. And the incredible part? How He tells us to live, makes it possible for us to experience a purpose-filled life with peace, contentment, and joy, as well as greater intimacy with Him.
We try to live how Christ told us to live for lots of reasons, but our motivations are not always pure. Some people become Christians and live obediently because it seems like the most expedient way to get what they want. “If I act like this, then God will bless me with that.” (read more)
Others simply live moral lives in line with what their community sees as acceptable, and sometimes those morals might have a lot in common with how Jesus told us to live. “That seems like a good rule because it’s acceptable to my community.”
Still others see perfect adherence to Christian teachings as their duty. “If I try hard enough, I can follow all the rules, and then maybe God will like me just a little bit more.” (read more)
And then there are those who are afraid of the consequences of disobedience and decide that obedience is the best way to avoid punishment. “No way! If I do that, God will take me to the wood shed!” (read more)
Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) It’s easy for us to forget the relational starting point of our discussion on obedience. We ultimately follow a Person, not a rule book. A purer motivation for obedience flows naturally out of the security of being loved by Him and our desire to please the One we love. (read more)
Each of these motivations for obedience are related to a particular relational metaphor, and are not altogether bad. The one who obeys to receive a blessing, acknowledges the goodness of our heavenly Father who rewards faithfulness. The one who obeys out of duty, rightly acknowledges God as the sovereign Ruler of the universe who gives the marching orders. The one who obeys out of fear of punishment rightly acknowledges God as the only true Judge, whose justice includes punishing sin.
But if we focus only on metaphors that stress authority we miss that our obedience is a response to God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”  Obedience without love is hollow—an egg that is only a shell isn’t much of an egg.
- Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 227.