Relationship with God. . . Duty, or Obedience out of Love?

Relationship with God. . . Duty, or Obedience out of Love?

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Modern so-called civilized society has had people going a mile a minute with just snippets of time available for those that matter to them, God and family included. We see memes aimed at parents and families, saying that it’s not the quantity of gifts that matter so much as the quality and quantity of time that a family can share together that counts. There used to be a saying, “The family that prays together stays together”. This is true of God’s family too.

God longs for relationship with His people! Relationships of any kind are difficult to engage and go deep on just a few minutes every day. Relationships are built by spending quality time together. This time together might be in silence, just enjoying each other’s presence. It might be spent together in conversation. It might be spent together with one learning something new from the other. In parent/child relationships, that time might even be spent with the parent correcting the child’s behaviour and the child having to accept and deal with that correction in a manner that either hurts or furthers their relationship with the parent.

Only so much time in a dayPopping into one’s quiet time just long enough to say ‘hi – goodbye” to God isn’t really spending much quality time with Him at all. There isn’t time to have a meaningful conversation of any kind beyond short quips that the person will forget hardly an hour later as they go about their busy schedules.

No. . . God wants quality time. God wants to truly spend time with us! He longs for two-way communication as we pray with our Bibles open, so that He can engage us as we engage Him.

There is a saying among starry-eyed lovers that “your wish is my command”. But in God’s way of doing things, nothing would please Him more than if His command was our desire. If we are truly, deeply in love with Christ, His commands are sweet and far easier to obey than if we have an arms-length relationship with Him. The master/servant relationship is not discounted in Scripture as a valid way to look at obedience to God’s commands, but God would prefer to treat us as sons and daughters, and as the Bride of Christ, pleased that we would choose to love Him so much that we willingly obey out of that love and desire to put a smile on His face. Now some will read this and accuse me of teaching some form of salvation by works, or of trying to earn God’s pleasure. Well, Scripture does tell me that I can grieve the Holy Spirit. So if it’s possible to earn His sadness and grief, if it’s possible to stir up His anger and if it’s possible to cause Him to feel the need to correct me, then it is equally possible to put a smile on His face and to sense His pleasure at having taken the time to please Him. Even Christ was moved by Mary’s sacrifice of Spikenard poured all over His feet. It is possible to make glad the heart of God as the Psalmist puts it. So while I can’t earn my salvation, I can affect God’s emotions and feelings toward me. It is true that God’s love for me is infinite, but it is also true that my capacity to accept and discover that love is directly related to the time and dedication I am willing to give to my relationship with Him.

I grew up with obedience being referred to as one’s duty as well. So many people have been under the impression of duty for so many years that it’s become one of the primary reasons for backsliding and walking away from the faith. Duty can only be kept up for so long before it eventually turns to drudgery if relationship with the one to whom they have that sense of duty is only kept at a superficial, arms-length distance. Yes, as the children of God we are expected to be obedient just as the bond slave forever obeys his master, but notice that term “bond” here. Paul makes this usage in reference to himself in his letters. In Bible times, if a servant loved their master so much that when the year of Jubilee came, they did not want to leave their master, they would put their ear to the door and their master would drive an awl through it to forever mark them as his bond slave. Usually, this was a situation where the master treated the slave well, and the slave was like part of the household. The key to this term “bond” is in the relationship the slave had with the master. Christ told His disciples that He no longer called them servants, but friends, because He told them all that was in His heart. To add yet another level of depth to this point, Paul tells the Ephesians that wives are to submit to their husbands. Many have abused this verse to grant men the right to abuse their wives and to prevent women from having any leadership roles anywhere at all. But in a healthy marriage situation, husband and wife love each other deeply. This love causes the husband to protect and fight for his wife to the point of putting his own life on the line to spare hers. This love causes the wife to willingly submit to her husband’s leadership in the home and deepens her nurturing nature toward him. There’s that word “love” again.

Personal Devotional TimeGod’s desire that we come away, come apart, and spend time together in His presence, is a command. God expects that anyone coming to and accepting Christ’s gift of Salvation will want to spend time with Him. To discover whole generations of modern society coming for the gift and then only peeking in on God one or more times in a day must be quite saddening and cause God much grief. God has shown me that He appreciates my efforts to draw near to Him. He’s shown me that He appreciates my efforts to spend time with Him, and He shows up to meet me. God is pleased when we choose to spend time with Him. He’s pleased when I choose to obey His directives. He’s pleased when I choose to thank Him and show an attitude of gratitude for all He’s busy doing on my behalf every day. It’s time to buck the North American/Western societal rat race and make time for the most important relationship you’ll ever have, your relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. The Bridegroom is calling. Will you answer?

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