Obedience or Compliance?

Every Easter, the brutality of Jesus’ death and the celebration of His Resurrection seems to bring about a different primary emotion than the one before. I remember feeling particularly melancholy last year and really having to remind myself that there was no need to dwell on the events of Friday because I was and am living eternally in the victory of Sunday.

The past few days, melancholy has given way to indignation. Not towards a person or race, lest you misunderstand me, but towards Satan who seems to never have much trouble finding those who will do his bidding. I’ve been pondering the injustice of the Holy Week and the Jewish establishment who broke all of their own laws to destroy the One who had never violated a single one. I’ve been thinking about the alliance between the chief priests and the hated Romans who found a common bond in wanting to see this Man dead. Their motivation? Convenience and Control. Perhaps the saddest thing is that all involved truly believed they were justified in doing whatever necessary to maintain both.

Things haven’t changed much have they?

The thing I will never get over, and I mean never, is that not once did Christ open His mouth to defend Himself. The only time He spoke was to confirm that He was who He claimed to be. Had he reminded the crowd of the laws being broken, had He called on them to rescue Him, had his earthly father been alive to begin a Maccabean-inspired revolt (pure speculation here), then no doubt all Hell would have broken loose. And I do mean that in the most literal and spiritual of ways. But instead, His silence assured His death while sealing our eternal life.

It occurs to me that if we follow a desirable command, our response isn’t obedience but compliance. If you say to me, “Lisa, come to the table, it’s time to eat!”, I’m totally there with no argument whatsoever. There’s willingness at work in my response. But God saying, “Lisa, this thing is unfair, it doesn’t make sense, and it will hurt like crazy but for your good and My Glory I’m asking you to do it anyway”, requires obedience – not compliance. And God never said, “Comply with my commands.” He said ‘obey’ which implies I may not always want to do what He is asking.

The only comfort I find is in knowing that Jesus didn’t want to do what God asked either. The proof is in Mark 14:35-36, “And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Ultimately Jesus obeyed. Somehow He was able to proclaim, “It is finished!!” rather than, “This isn’t fair!”

And that is the place where I rest and the point of all my rambling: Sin and pain and injustice were the required mix for this to be an act of obedience rather than compliance with a more desirable scenario. And at the time Jesus was walking this thing out as an example to us, no one knew. No one yet understood the price being paid. And so in essence, even though the first glory was a private one between Father and Son, God was fully satisfied by His Son’s willingness to endure the most horrific death imaginable rather than one relatively quicker and less painful.

When I am tempted to cry foul, like Christ, I have to look through the injustice to see what obedience I’m being called to on the other side. Even if no one knows the cost, God does. And I have to believe the more it hurts and the more it goes against everything natural in me to do what He has asked, the more it glorifies and satisfies Him when I am sanctified by acting in accordance with His commands. If the thing isn’t hard, it really doesn’t count for much, does it?

So, let’s decide. Obedience or Compliance? Lord, please make us to understand the refining value of the one instead of expecting the ease of the other. And, may it be that we experience a full measure of joy in both.

Praying you and your family experience a wonderful celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. He is worthy!!!