Many people love to eat at a smorgasbord. Displayedin front of them is every imaginable type of food, often however, the food is mediocre and generally non-nutritious. For many, the only redeeming value is that they are often all you can eat. As a resultsome people gorge themselves on this food. Unfortunately, and alltoo frequently werespond to our faith and to our church like we are feeding from a smorgasbord. We want to pick and choose what teachings we will abide by and which ones we will disregard. Also, we often choose to do things that are not good for us spiritually and gorge ourselves on these sinful desires.
Let’s face it, a basic right of being human is freedom of choice. God created us with free will.Personal freedomsare important to all people in the world.We cherish our personal freedoms, and when it comes to this idea of “being obedient” to God or to our church, well, quite frankly our freedom can often get in the way and create for us quite a challenge.
Exactly what is obedience? Obedience is the moral virtue that inclinesour will to comply with the will of God.Thus obedience to God is without limit.Obedience as a virtue,is pleasing to God because we willingly sacrifice our will for His, out of love for Him.
Each religious order takesits ownspecific vows. As an example, the Franciscans, a Catholic order founded in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi, take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Obedience when lived and followed,can provide a strong witnessof Gospel values in the face of competing or even contrary values in today’s culture. I have been told that if you ask most Franciscans they say it is the vow of obedience that is the most difficult.
Obedience is not just for the vowed religious, it is something for all of us. Two of the great human examples of obedience that we can model ourselves after are Abraham and Mary the mother of Jesus.That being said,the greatest example of obedience that we can follow is Jesus himself. Obedience is not too popular in our culture today; but it should be, because obedience to God brings with it great blessings and joy. Let’s look at Jesus’ examples:
We are told in the Bible that Jesus was obedientto the will of God the Father. Obedience is a learned virtue. Hebrews 5:8-10 says: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, designated by God as high priest according to the order of Melchezedek.”
Jesus began learning obedience as a child in his home in Nazareth. Remember in Luke 2:51, after his parents found him, it says: “He went down with them then, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” Jesus also learned obedience throughhis suffering, and he endured it because he trusted in his Father.By his obedience, Jesus experienced a perfectpeace and union with the Father, and sometimes this meant hehad to endurepain.
In John 8:31-32 we read”If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Notice here that being obedient brings freedom, it frees us from our slavery to sin and allows us to also enjoy the beauty and joy of our own union with the Father.
InJohn 12:47-50 we read:”If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I am not the one to condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words already has his judge, namely, the word I have spoken–it is that which will condemn him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own; no, the Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to speak. Since I know that his commandment means eternal life, whatever I say is spoken just as he instructed me.”Jesus taught us that our eternal lifecan be lost if we are notobedient.
In John 15:10-16 of Jesus’ last discourse, Jesus instructs his disciples and us: “You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and live in his love. All this I tell you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if You do what I command you. I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” Through obedience we are assured thejoy andfriendshipof Jesus.
So as we read above, we must strive to learnto be obedient to Godand the teachings of the church and through our obediencewe are we are promised peace, freedom, joy and eternal life.With so much at stake, why then do we stubbornly cling to our smorgasbord faith? Why do we selectively choose to follow only some of God’s teachings?
I would submit the reason is because we have all becomethe church of ME. We each pick and choose which of God’s rules and which of our church’s rules we will follow and which ones we will ignore in the church of ME.I know personally I have been guilty of this at times.I think we all havesome teachings of God or the church that wewish were different, so weare inclined to disregard them. Have you done this? I bet you have. I think we all are guilty of this. We must be very careful because Satansought to be a church of himself. He did not want to accept God’s rules. It is Satan who we become more like when we make ourselves so important that we chooseour own rules to follow. When we are the church of ME, we cease to be part of the body of Christ.
What smorgasbord rules do you follow? Some people claim to be pro-life and yet favor the death penalty. Some people want to disregard the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Many people choose to disregard the Catholic church’s teaching against the use of birth control. Many people have stopped the practice of keeping Sunday as a day of worship. Have you ignored Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or visit those in prisons? Many people have made money or the accumulation of wealth a god ofits own, and the list goes on and on.What rules of spiritual nutrition do you ignore at the smorgasbord of the church of ME?Take a moment today and write down the list of God’s rules and Church rules that you choose to ignore. Then pray about this and ask God to help you see the wisdom of following his rules.
Our Lord has set for us a banquet of fine food through the rules he has given us for our eternal salvation. He knows our needs and he knows his rules will bring us joy and peace. When someone eats too much of all the wrong food at a smorgasbord they become bloated and miserable feeling and often suffer from heartburn. If we choose to not be obedient and eat from the spiritual smorgasbord by picking which rules we will follow we too will be miserable andwill experiencespiritual heartburn. Obedience to God is the Alka Seltzer for our souls.If we want a healthy soul we need to pull ourselves from the spiritual smorgasbord, and feast on the specific perfect meal he sets before us.
Heavenly Father, I no longer want to be a smorgasbord Christian, and a slave to sin, but instead I want to be your friend by keeping your commands. Teach me totrust in you and give me the wisdom and strength to follow your commandments knowing that you know what is in my best interest. Amen.