Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To Trust and Obey

"One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I was reading in "The Purpose Driven Life" this morning about obedience and surrender. Warren notes that both of these words often leave bad tastes in our mouths (similar to words like "submit"). Obedience is a word we usually reserve for dogs . . . and occasionally children. It's definitely not in style.

Yet obedience, to God and man is such a high virtue. The Desert Fathers were a monastic community of radical believers during the fourth century in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Their communities were experiments in holiness and humility and their collected wisdom reflect this. Many of their sayings are recorded in story form. Like this one:

They said that abba Sylvanus had a disciple in Scetis, named Mark, who possessed in great measure the virtue of obedience. He had eleven other disciples who were aggrieved that he loved Mark more than them.

When the old men nearby heard that he loved Mark above the others, they took it ill. One day they visited him and abba Sylvanus took them with him, and going out of his cell, began to knock on the door of each of his disciples, saying, "Brother, come out, I have work for you." And not one of them appeared immediately.

Then he came to Mark's cell and knocked, saying, "Mark." And as soon as Mark heard the voice of the old man he came outside and the old man sent him away on some errand.

So abba Sylvanus said to the old men, "Where are the other brothers?" and he went into Mark's cell and found the book in which he had been writing and he was making the letter O; and when he heard the old man's voice, he had not finished the lines of the O. And the old men said, "Truly, abba, we also love the one whom you love; for God loves him too."

This story always touches something in me. Perhaps its partially because the obedient disciple shares my name, but I marvel at the beauty of his wholehearted surrender. I know the story is not perfect and that favoritism is not a good thing but still I find it compelling. Jesus said that we love him if we obey him. Obedience is the true test of love. My goal in life is to possess the virtue of obedience (like Mark did in the story) to Christ and his commands. You have to trust someone alot to be that obedient. God, build up my trust in you! Amen.

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