Trust is a word that we struggle with from time to time. Who do we trust and why do we trust them. Do we really trust God? We have been on this journey together towards transformation in the image of Christ for the past three weeks. Last week we discussed what it mean to trust God, but just saying that we trust God as Christians is not enough - trust should lead to action. And that particular actions comes in the form of two unpopular words - obedience and submission.
In this mornings scripture lesson from the letter to the Hebrews we find that Christ modeled for us what it looks like to submit. “Though he was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” Friends, even though Jesus was fully God, he set aside his divinity to obey and come to earth in the form of an infant who would ultimately suffer and die on the cross. Having all of the power in the world to say no, he still chose to come and suffer for us, making him trustworthy and our savior.
Yet, even though Christ modeled submission and obedience for us, that doesn’t make it any easier. We like to sing choruses and hymns with words like “Trust and obey, there is no other way” yet we run our own way all the time.
What makes it so hard to obey God? There are lots of things. One sin. We don’t like being told to stop the sin in our life, especially if it is something that makes us feel temporary good. God is inviting us into a life of abundance but we get so stuck in wanting what we want in our own way and our own time that we miss the ultimate picture, so we stay in our small world cramped with sin. We don’t want to have to give up our ways.
Second, we don’t like being told what to do. In the book of Leviticus, a book of laws and rules, we find these words, “You shall do my ordinances, and you shall keep my statutes and walk in them: I am Yahweh your God.” I for one grew up liking rules, but I am also keenly aware that made me an odd child. I saw rules, and still see them, as a blessing. They act as guidelines and guardrails to keep us safe.
Pastors are required to serve the annual conference from time to time with their gifts and graces, as a way to build up the church universal. One of the ways I serve is by teaching a class called boundaries, which is essentially pastoral ethics - how do we live into our rule of pastors fully and not do anything that could harm the people entrusted to us or the Church. When teaching boundaries 1 we always start with the question about what boundaries are - and most of the time people answer in negatives - things like rules that you are punished for breaking. But more often then not, by the time the class is over, we see boundaries as gifts - guidelines that allow us to faithfully be who we are called to be in a way that lifts up God’s name.
When we continue to want to live in sin and continue to not want to follow God’s laws for us, it is often because we perceive God as wanting to take something away from us, instead of dwelling on what God is blessing us with. The psalmist helps us reorient our perceptions and the eyes of our heart by saying “My soul loves your decrees; I love them exceedingly.” Do you love the decrees of God? How do you perceive the law of God and what blessing is God trying to bring into our lives by giving us commands such as loving God with all we have and all we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves?
A third reason we struggle with obedience is because we don’t really trust God. We may say we trust God and other people may think we trust God, but there is no fooling God. God knows that there are times when we just get so confused because the world tells us to act one way and God tells us to act another. The two just can’t be reconciled, so we have to make a choice about who to follow. And sometimes we choose wrong. Because we would rather be obedient to the world with it immediate rewards then trust God for things yet unseen. We don’t trust that God has our best interest at heart. Distrust, for any reason, leads to disobedience.
Lastly, we aren't obedient because being obedient requires a relationship with God. For years I taught children ages 3-5 in Sunday School programs. I always dreaded the first few weeks of the year, because I didn’t have a relationship yet with the kiddos so they didn’t think they had to listen to me or the other teachers. They may have been perfectly saintly children at home but put them in a new environment with new people and no parents and it could get ugly. Fast. But by the end of the year, they would behave as well as they did at home. Why? Because they got to know me, and trust me, and listen to my voice.
We could have been Christians all our lives and grown up in the church, but that doesn’t always signify the quality of our relationship with God. It doesn’t say wether we know and respond to the voice of God in our lives. Christian singer Todd Agnew expresses it this way in his song “Funny” “And You speak to me all the time and I can’t obey you to save my life. Well I can but I don’t. And I want to but I won’t. And I don’t do what I want to, I do what I don’t mean to and I’m confused.” Obedience is easier in relationship and sometimes our relationship with God isn’t that great because we haven’t put in the effort of getting to know the heart of God or listening for the call of God on our lives. That’s painful to hear, but all too often we are disobedient because obedience is easier in relationship and we simply don’t have that great of a relationship with God, through no fault of God’s.
Obedience is a choice and as we can see there any many things that are trying to pull us away from making the choice to submit to God and be obedient. Obedience requires abiding in the love of God - to accept and act in accordance with and to continue in without fading. We aren’t to be obedient sometimes, we aren’t to abide sometimes, we are to abide and be obedient all the time. That’s what Jesus is trying to get out in today’s Gospel passage by saying, “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” We have to decide to be obedient to God out of our love for God. What will you choose this day? Amen.