Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Tension of Obedience

During our missions training we had a school mate who decided not to prepare breakfast for everyone because she felt the Lord had told her instead to spend the time with her kids. So we all missed breakfast that morning. So much for house authority. So much for school authority, and so much for kindness to fellow students!

I was shocked that she could so easily ignore house rules. But in the many years since that time I have encountered the same tension she experienced between obeying what she thought God had said while still honoring human leaders and established policies. I’ve experienced times in which I attempted to follow God’s leading and bumped into fences and roadblocks of policies and rules and misunderstanding from God’s leaders!

Reflecting back, I may have looked just as foolish as my former school mate. I also realize I might have missed God’s timing or ways, and God might have wanted my godly leader to nudge me back on the path where I had missed an obscured turn. Had I listened to my leader, I could have waited more patiently for God’s perfect timing. I’m not at all sure, even now. Knowing God’s will and honoring God’s leaders, and following the rules can be complicated!

Jesus faced this dilemma during his time of ministry. He did hear from God. He did know God’s ways, and he did have his timing right. He did not intentionally snub leadership or rules, but he was clearly honoring God’s authority by his obedience. Even then, the religious leaders questioned his healing and deliverance ministry and challenged his teaching. They were irritated by his friendship with sinners and his popularity with the common crowd.

Things came to a boiling point near the end of his ministry when the religious leaders challenged him in the temple, “By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you this authority?” They hit the nail on the head. Their contention with Jesus was really about authority and power. But they had it wrong. They were the ones not operating under the authority of God. They had missed God’s cues. They had missed his heart. They didn’t know God’s ways. They ignored his prophets. And they were clearly operating under the thumb of the Roman government and fear of the people. “By what authority are you doing these things?” was the question those leaders needed to hear. And Jesus gave them three stories to expose their wayward independence (Matt 21-22).

From Jesus’ example I can learn how to honorably do God’s will when it seems out of sync with the rest of my religious world. Jesus was boldly confident in God’s clear directives for every word and action. He allowed no room for missed timing or ungodly ways. Jesus also carried out God’s directives with kindness and generosity towards the religious leaders while speaking truth. He preached in their synagogues and ate in their homes. Only when they publicly challenged him did he confront with a fist-in-velvet-glove manner.

But I can also learn from the religious leaders how easily any one of us can slip into the same state! We can become pompous in our spirituality and lash out at those who do ministry differently or apply biblical truth in an “extreme” way. How different it was for the few religious leaders who actually checked Jesus out with an open heart and mind. And how important it is for me to lay down my easily-biased views and invite God’s perspective on other ministers and their ministries. The religious leaders forgot that God is the final authority not them. That truth is critical for me to walk in the humility and confidence God intended. This humility can make the complicated journey of doing God’s will and honoring God’s leaders far less treacherous.

picture from http://www.public-domain-photos.com/.

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