Sunday, September 8, 2019

Understanding the nature of obedience to God

Someone once tried to rewrite the Ten Commandments, “stating them as a positive.” They didn't like the “negative” tone of “Thou shalt not…” There are several problems with this.

First, not all ten are written “as a negative,” as it were. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” and “Honor your father and your mother,” are written as a positives.

Second, if “as a positive” was the wisest way to write them, wouldn't God, who is alone wise, have written them that way?

Third, this misunderstands the nature of the freedom God intends.

Let's assume this “as a positive” and “as a negative” are two types of commands that God can give.

If God gives his command “as a positive” then we are to do exactly what He said or wrote. There may be other things we can do, but we're not to do them if we have something specific we are supposed to do. This is called duty.

If God gives his command “as a negative” then we are not to do exactly what He said or wrote. There may be other things we can do, and as long as we're not doing the specific things we're not supposed to do, we're clear. This is called freedom.

Freedom is about flourishing, and so our God's commands. His commands are not burdensome.

If we assume that we're free to do that which we're not commanded not to do, some may argue this freedom could get excessive and create other problems for things not expressly prohibited. Take for instance, adultery. There are a lot of forms of deviant behavior that may not be explicitly prohibited. The fact that the Bible goes to great lengths to spell out and prohibit many of those forms speaks to the point that freedom is indeed the original point of stating most of the Ten Commandments as a negative in the first place.

Obeying God's “negative” commands is more about what you will not do than what you should do. When I wrote that the Christian life is not about commands, I was thinking of those who view the commands of God “as a positive,” as things we “must” do.

If you're wondering what God wants you, a believer, to do, know this: He wants you to be free. If you have options before you, thank God. Ask Him if He has one He wants you to pick. He may be leaving you free to pick one.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

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