Single-minded obedience

John Wesley and Dietrich Bonhoeffer shared a zeal for single-minded obedience to Christ. They both took the “Lord” part of Lord and Savior quite seriously.

In Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, he expresses shock at the way we Christians twist and turn to escape the clear commands of Christ. Our preachers help us out in this by explaining away the hard teaching and the narrow way. When Jesus says turn the other cheek, he does not really mean accept another blow. He means twist back around so you can get a really good swing on your counter punch. When Jesus says seek first the kingdom of God, he really means seek other things first but be prepared to bet all on the coming kingdom if it comes to that.

Bonhoeffer will have none of this.

How is such absurdity possible? What has happened that the word of Jesus can be thus degraded by this trifling, and thus left open to the mockery of the world? When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends his child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up a smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: “Father tells me to go to bed, but he rally means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: ‘Go out and play.'” If a child tried such arguments on his father or a citizen on his government, they would both meet with a kind of language they could not fail to understand — in short they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandment of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible!

Bonhoeffer writes that obedience to Christ pulls us into a place where faith is possible. It puts us in a place in which we can in fact have true faith, true trust, that Jesus Christ is our Savior.

I am reminded this day to be attentive to the word of Jesus Christ and to step out in obedience, not because I understand but because the grace of God gives me the faith to do so.


7 thoughts on “Single-minded obedience

  1. The Grace of God will give you faith .
    God has also provided a means to increase faith.
    By what means has our Lord done so?
    Could it be by words, stories, writings, acts and sacrifices of the many followers of Christ who have gone before us and who have given far more than the their time and money. They have given their life.
    Our Lord has given us a mind to think with.
    He has given us the capacity to reason, eyes to read and see with and the capacity to hear with our ears
    Better students make better teachers and that makes for a better church.
    So what do we really know about God?
    Did he not make himself man so we could see with our own eyes?

    Christ was a Jew.
    He would be raised a Jew in a Jewish home.
    He would be a student in a Jewish schools.
    Do you think Christ would be an exceptional student and go on to follow a Master…..a Rabbi?
    “Follow me” is a Rabbinical term used by Rabbis.
    Is that why Christ used the phrase “follow me” to Peter and other apostles?
    Did Christ make a “Master” out of a fisherman?

    We know how Christians lived and what they practiced in the early church. We have the writings of the Early Church Fathers to look back to.

    …Festus exclaimed,
    “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!”Acts 26:24

    Did you hear that? Paul studied…He learned. What Paul shared was not knowledge mystically infused in him.
    Paul studied at the feet of Gamaliel.
    Gamaliel didn’t take average students. He trained the brightest and the best.
    Christ chose this man Paul.

    Paul says:
    “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”
    “I’ve given you the foundation, I’ve laid the foundation and it’s solid. I haven’t held back anything. You have it all.”

    So, …..Why is the church in the state they are in?

    The questions are easy the answers not so easy to find.

  2. “single-minded obedience to Christ.”
    You have opened up an interesting topic.
    To know Christ. To understand the mind of God.

    The Christian Church today is not united in what “the mind of Christ” is.
    The church cannot even agree on what the Bible is, let alone what it says .
    How can the church be obedient to something they do not agree on?

    Is the Bible reliable, inspired and dependable or is the Bible just a guide not to be taken literally?
    Have we become like the Jews, who, after year of division, were made to rely on not so wise sages that expanded and distorted God’s word.
    What was it Christ said?

    Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mark 7:13

    I think Christ was referring to “oral tradition” or Mishna here.

    I will leave you with a great theological question that has been argued among the scholars forever.

    What did Christ write with His finger in the sand?

    The trial is over.
    Gilt has been decreed.
    Christ is not asked is the adulteress guilty but what is to be done with her?
    We know this event took place on the “8th day of the feast” considered a Sabbath with all that implies.
    We know from the book of John Roman Law did not allow the Jews to put a person to death. We also know the Pharisees would demand strict adherence to the Law of Moses and had questioned Jesus on that very topic John 5:45-47

    Did Christ write the word Death, Kill Her, Stone Her before challenging the crowd?

    How well do we really know Christ?
    How well do we study Christ?
    How well do we know his word?
    Paul said we have been given the foundation.
    What have we built top of that foundation?

  3. DB, you are quite full of questions.

    I must confess, though, to not being able to follow your thread.

  4. The questions are not for me. They are to inspire thought.
    What’s hard to follow?
    The thread is about Single-minded obedience.
    To be obedient one must know the rules.
    To be obedient or loyal, one must have faith in the leader, faith in the book, faith in the person.
    If the church can not agree on what the bible is they will never agree on what it
    says or teaches.
    Division makes for weakness.

    The parable points out issues surrounding the event.
    That too is to inspire thought.
    Thinking should lead to study which leads to understanding , wisdom and truth.

  5. DB, perhaps you should start your own blog and invite conversation there. The comments you left on John’s blog are more suited to be posts in themselves. Cross-blogging conversations are typical if you have need to expand upon something someone else wrote on his or her blog.

    And honestly, your comments seem to be a bit stream of consciousness…and that’s really difficult to respond to in any meaningful way.

    Questions are great, but better one at a time for clarity’ sake.

    I’m not trying to tear you down–what you have to contribute has value. I want to help you beter communicate within this particular community through the blogging medium. If you decide to start a blog, invite me and I’ll follow.

  6. As I read the Bonhoeffer quote, it reminds me of the challenge of faith as trust. I’m still in a weird wilderness place in being obedient and faithful to God in starting Simple Church. I want to go fast and do stuff, but I feel God telling me to slow down…that what he;s called me to do isn’t something that happens in a few months, but over several years.

    I’m starting to realize how many other things other than Christ I had made lord. I mean, I eventually got around to Jesus, but his Lordship over my life had been mitigated by so many other things. I tempted to be like Abraham and take control of things instead of trusting that God knows what the heck he’s doing.

    1. Kurt, I love your last sentence: “trusting that God knows what the heck he’s doing.” On my best days, I am, too.

      Run with patience.

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