Today I was listening to a message by one of the speakers I enjoy and his topic was obedience. While the entire message was great, a certain quote he referenced from John Webster got me thinking;
Listening means obedience, and obedience is not craven submission; it’s not born of fear. Obedience to God is the lifelong task of giving my consent to the shape which God has for my life. Obedience is letting God put me in the place where I can be the sort of person I am made by God to be. I come to see what that kind of person this is when I stop trying to be in charge of myself … that I can only be myself if I walk in his ways.
What struck me is the reason Webster compares listening and obedience is because the latin word which became “obey” in English literally means “listen to”.
It does not denote submission to a master or subservience to another; it simply means to listen to what a person says.
And truly listening to another will shape and change the way you act. Listening is not just hearing; it is carefully considering what someone has to say to you and about you and allowing it to change the way you think.
This made me think about how often I (and most people these days) don’t actually listen to anyone — and I believe this shapes the reason why I (we) have such a problem with obedience.
We continue to want to be in control of our own lives and truly listening to other voices cannot help but change us … and we do not like the chaos this could cause.
To truly listen to our enemies would make us sympathize with them and (God forbid) perhaps even love them. (We wouldn’t want that.)
To listen to the oppressed may make us compassionate toward their situations and motivate us to try and change their situation. That would be chaotic to the “kingdom of comfort” we thrive in. It would be revolutionary.
To listen to what God has to say about the direction our lives are intended to go would drastically change our path. We may need to turn around and head in directions we are not currently comfortable with … and that “repentance” is not the type we are comfortable with in our lives.
As Webster says, to listen is to engage in the “lifelong task of giving my consent to the shape which God has for my life”.