Today’s post is by Richie Haratine – a college professor, an actor, and a dear friend. Enjoy!
As an actor, I’m paid to pretend. I tell great stories and play convincing characters in front of large numbers of people. My job is to create a being as real and convincing as any person you’d meet. If I break character while I am on stage, even for a moment, I haven’t done my job. But when I step off the stage and you and I happen to bump into each other, then you see the real and honest me….sometimes.
Truthfully, I’m a fraud most of the time. I want very badly for people to like me, particularly Christians (because you’re my brothers and sisters). I want you to be assured and encouraged and believe that, “yes, I am growing. . .Christ is enough!. . .that God is sovereign!” and that those truths shape me. And they do shape me. . .sometimes. But other times, I’m lying straight through my smiling face. And it hurts holding that smile for so long.
So, obedience. Now, I can show a long list of obedient behavior (and I’m sure you could, too), which, strangely enough, feels like yet another performance. But if only you could see the tug of war that was happening on the inside. Obeying so I can prove to myself what a determined and spiritual hulk I am. Obeying so others will think well of me, so others will see and tell their friends what a good obedient Christian I am, and worst of all, attempting to obey to make sure God is happy with me. Of course, He’s already happy with me in Christ. Duh. So why do I fake it?
Obedience is a very big and important word for Christians. I’ve been down the road of “just do it”, don’t let your “feelings” rule you or dictate your behavior, and let God’s law guide you. Obedience to God’s law is critical, no debate there. But let’s consider some of the ramifications of being really obedient. . .how ‘bout those Pharisees? Proud, arrogant and self assured. They were so wonderfully obedient, and, boy, did they know it. The only reason I mention this is because it appears to me that obedience doesn’t eliminate sin. Obedience can say, “hey, look at me!” It can impress others or fool others. But look, God didn’t give us a list of rules to see who could follow them the best. A trained monkey can obey a list.
Here’s the rub. . .the moment after you have done this act of obedience. . .check and see, where does your heart go? Me, I’m either a little stoic about it like “oh no, it’s just my duty, God calls me to live like this…so onward! Let’s march!” Or I get a little proud and start to look around and notice that others could really take my advice on how to be more obedient and holy. It’s one or the other for me.
But there’s a third response. Gratitude. Just gratitude. When I came to Christ, I did nothing, it was all Him. I brought my sin, and only my sin. And today, when I obey God, rightly, with a heart of joy, not just biting my lip and gritting it out, that, too, is God. When I am able to love people, think of others first, be patient, avoid an old habit, refrain from sin, I am amazed. . .because that most certainly is not me. The real me is lazy, tired, riddled with idols, anxious, impatient, loud…and I love my habits, and frankly, I love to sin. And you do too. It’s our fallen nature. The only thing that’s changed is now God is living in us. So when we find ourselves spontaneously and joyfully obeying God’s law, let’s not pat ourselves on the back or act like it’s just our duty. . .but let’s praise God, because he did it, not us.
Quick caveat: I’m not suggesting you disregard obedience to God’s law. That’s crazy. Instead I’m praying that the desires and motivations to obey would be valued more highly. May we all say, without faking it, “not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42