Christian Living

Be Obedient Even When You Don’t Understand the Command

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 09/30/2022

Sometimes God’s moral commands in Scripture don’t make sense to us. This is not surprising since we’re living in a time when we’re constantly being catechized by worldviews and ethical systems other than Christianity, and our perception of reality—not to mention our resulting intuition about what’s right and what’s wrong—is skewed.

Think, for example, of our understanding of the nature of human beings. If, as our culture is constantly telling us, we are the result of random evolution, if our bodies were not created for a purpose, if the goal of life is to maximize pleasure, if sex is nothing more than a physical act devoid of significance, if our identity is created by our own expression of our desires, then what sense can be made of God prohibiting sex outside of opposite-sex marriage?

And think of our culture’s understanding of love. If love is merely unqualified affirmation, disconnected from an objective standard of truth to guide that affirmation for the good of the loved one, then how could a God of love possibly want us to deny a loved one the affirmation they desire?

Or what of our society’s social-media-driven hunger for glory and fame? In such a world, the idea that “the greatest among you shall be your servant” is difficult to truly believe, let alone submit to.

The Danger of Following a Misinformed Sense of What Is Good

The moral commands God revealed in Scripture are eminently reasonable and beautiful, and we are always better off living in obedience (despite how it might seem to us in the moment), but for a young Christian who is not steeped in the big picture of reality or knowledge of God’s character, God’s moral commands can appear outdated, harmful, or even cruel. The temptation to ignore those commands inevitably follows—not necessarily out of a conscious desire to disobey, but out of a misinformed sense of what is truly good.

But the problem with disobedience doesn’t end there, because even an older Christian who has worked for decades to immerse himself in God’s truth, a Christian who knows God’s commands were given for our good, can become convinced that God couldn’t possibly really want him to [X, Y, Z] in this particular situation, when it looks like no harm—and even some good—would come from doing something else.

I couldn’t help but think of this very thing recently when I read Mark 1:40–45:

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If you are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.

Do you see what I mean? This former leper was overwhelmingly grateful to Jesus—so much so, that he decided he would help Jesus out by disobeying his command not to tell anyone what had happened. After all, what could be better in this situation than openly praising Jesus far and wide? So instead of responding in obedience, he followed his own idea of what was good. As a result, “Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city,” and who knows what the ramifications of this were, especially for those Jesus would have taught and healed there.

Despite the fact that this man likely desired to honor Jesus, his disobedience ended up hindering him instead. And if this man had no trouble disregarding a specific and personal command given by Jesus, how much greater will our temptation be to sidestep the general commands given to all of us in Scripture!

We Are All Susceptible to This Temptation

Between our own sinfulness, our lack of knowledge about God and his world, and the influence of the culture, we’re all susceptible to thinking we’re a better judge of what is good than God is. If you are following Jesus, a time will inevitably come when you’ll have to choose to follow one of his moral commands recorded in Scripture even though you don’t understand why it’s been commanded—a time when you’ll need to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5–6). This is where all of your knowledge of apologetics (undergirding God’s reality) and theology (illuminating God’s character) comes into play. We trust and obey God in areas we don’t understand because he has proven himself to be trustworthy, wise, and loving everywhere else.