Friday, February 15, 2013

What Does the New Testament Say About Obedience?

Check out today's episode

I have recently finished reading the New Testament and I am collecting my thoughts about what I read in this series of posts. Today I am writing about what the New Testament says about Obedience. Other entries in this series:
  1. Slavery
  2. The Apocalypse
  3. Women
  4. Violence
  5. Sexuality
When people are punished in the bible, their sins are often cited to explain the severity of their punishment. I often find it interesting to see which sins are considered so terrible it becomes necessary to, say, destroy an entire city. In Jude 8 there was discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah, we all know they were punished for "defiling their flesh", but apparently the are also being punished for blasphemy and rejecting authority. All of these things basically come down to not obeying God. 2 Peter 2:9-10 talks about punishing the unrighteous, in addition to lust, their main crime is despising authority. While obedience certainly has its place, it really doesn't seem like it should be held in such high regard. I think it is important to ask who benefits from placing such a large emphasis on obedience, those who are in power and writing the bible perhaps?

Let's look at some specifics, and start in a situation where the obedience is reasonable, I think we can all agree that children should obey their parent. The younger a child is, the less they understand about the world and its dangers. Often there is not time to explain an imminent danger to a child, or the child is not able to understand what is going on. It is good to try to get the kid to understand as best he can, but ultimately, it is best if they simply obey their parents. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 and Ephesians 6:1-4 express this idea, children should obey their parents. Colossians 3:20 explicitly says that children should obey their parents in all things, I think this takes this a step too far. Like so many things there need to be limits. The older a child gets the more they need to make decisions on their own as they work toward adulthood, blind obedience at that stage would be a detriment to their development, and like many things in life, there is no point where you switch from being a helpless child to an adult, it has to happen gradually. Furthermore, some parents are abusive, it is obviously not in their child's best interest to obey them all the time. Once again, the bible has taken something that is a good rule of thumb and ruined it by making it much too broad.

Apart from our parents, who do we need to make sure to obey? According to Titus 3:1 we should be submissive an obedient to rulers and authorities. It is not specific to which authority we are supposed to obey, I think it is more concerned with people being obedient, than with who those people are obedient to. However, Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 1:14,22 go further and tell us that we should be obedient to the church. This makes sense as this book is controlled by the church and it is obviously in their best interest for its followers to be obedient.

Of course ultimately the bible says we should be obedient to God. Hebrews 5:8 goes as far as to suggest that Jesus went through all of the stuff he went through so that he would learn obedience. Once he properly learned obedience he became the source of eternal salvation for everyone. According to this narrative, the obedience really takes center stage. Similarly, Philippians 2:8 praises Jesus for being obedient to the point of death. But this is not just reserved for Jesus, we can be obedient to our death as well, Revelation 2:10 suggests that if we die for God we will be rewarded. Once again, the important detail here is who would benefit from such things. Obviously the church benefits big time here. If people follow this instruction, they will give their lives for the benefit of the church, and there is no way we can ever see if God's side of that bargain is fulfilled. The church can't lose.


  1. I started reading the intro and then all I could think was...ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!

  2. FOLLOW THE HYPNOTOAD... and anyone else God has put in charge! :-)

  3. That's so weird, I don't even remember including that pict...All GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!

  4. If I kiss the HYPNOTOAD will he turn into a handsome prince?


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