Monday, March 3, 2008

A Different Set of Rules

Sometimes, I think God is using a different set of rules than I'm using to play by in this life. By this, I mean obedience doesn't always look like I think it should. Even more often, the results of obedience turn out to look very differently than I'd expected or might have hoped.

Although similar, this problem is a little different than the age-old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" because this problem acknowledges the active and deliberate efforts of obedience to a Supreme and Holy God wherein the results of those acts were disappointing or at least surprisingly unexpected.

For example, my friends Laura and Jeff chose to follow God's calling as missionaries to an African country. Some of their co-workers, also following God's call, have been arrested for their Christian witness. Why then, since they acted in obedience to Jesus' command to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel" should something like this have resulted?

We have some other friends here in the U.S. who, although they have faithfully ministered for nearly two decades, have been laid-off from their role because the place where they live is in decline, and the church can no longer afford to pay them. They've been obedient in serving the Lord, proactive in ministering in his name, so why is termination the result?

Or more personally, Darin and I were both pure at the time of our marriage, so our inability to conceive children seems rather odd to us both. Wouldn't the logical result be that infertility should happen to people who were disobedient to the 7th commandment?

Although I have no answers to explain the mind and workings of our omnipotent, omniscient God, I take comfort in this: We're not alone.

The disciples certainly didn't expect Jesus' obedience to look like it did. Even Jesus asked it to take a different route (Matthew 26:39).

Joseph obediently went in search of his brothers, according to his father's instruction, and yet on the other end they were plotting to kill him (Genesis 37:12-18).

David obeyed his father by taking food to his brothers, only to end up fighting a giant (1 Samuel 17:17-58).

Moses obeyed God by leading the people out of Egypt, yet what he got for it was the same meal in the wilderness for 40 years with a bunch of whining complainers (Exodus 3:10; 16:2-17:4).

Hosea obeyed God by marrying an adulterous woman and lived life with a broken heart (Hosea 1:2).

Even Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in obeying God, first ended up in the fiery furnace from which they were saved (Daniel 3:16-18).

Too often, we want obedience to be attractive and "rewarding." Jesus promises there will be blessing for obedience and his presence ever-near, but we want to believe in a human-conceived reward/punishment system. He's not restricted to playing by our man-made rules.

So, yes, God is using a different set of rules. But he has proven his faithful and trustworthy character again and again, so whatever rules he's using are safe enough for me to live by, even when the results of my obedience don't look like I think they should.

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