Posted by: dacalu | 15 January 2011

Love or Obedience

It has been said that our children learn by watching what we do rather than listening to what we say.  A truism, perhaps, but one I think we reflect on too rarely – especially in the church.

First and foremost, I think that this tells us something about a faith community:  How do they model God.  Does that God ask for love or for obedience?  If the principle image given is one of a God who coerces through granting gifts and meting out punishment, then we must not be surprised when followers treat one another in a similar fashion, through coercion, expecting every one to act with enlightened self interest.  If you believe in a God that punishes sinners, will you also punish those around you?

On the other hand, we can look at communities who present a God of love.  For the sake of argument I’m not talking about a God who simply lives and lets live – that would be a God of neglect who leads a band of neglectful followers.  No, I’m talking about a God who messily treats followers as though they were friends and family.  A faith community that presents a God who cares for people, accepts their faults but genuinely tries to help them – will instill in itself the virtues of caring and compassion.  This doesn’t strike me as terribly difficult and yet I feel it’s often ignored in public dialogue.

Does your God call you to love or obedience?  Does your God reward and punish or encourage and confront?  What sort of behavior is given as an example?

Secondly, the exact same thing may be said of leaders in any faith community.  What sort of example do they set?  No one will believe that a God of love founded a church of obedience and judgment.  And that sums up the challenge of evangelism.



  1. […] be seen as a manifestation of love or love will be seen as a manifestation of obedience. We must choose. Most of the time it will not matter, but sometimes it will be critical. Particularly in matters of […]

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