There’s a popular fashion trend that’s been a thing since 2001. It’s called OBEY Clothing. Surely you’ve seen their shirts and hats out and about. Here’s an example:
The great thing about the OBEY brand is it’s origins. It began with the street art of Shepard Fairey and is heavily steeped in the cultures of punk rock and skateboarding. Thus, it’s both funny and odd that the word “obey” is so closely associated with this company since Fairey, punk, and skateboarding are all known for individuality, independence, and spontaneity.
Here’s the way OBEY’s website describes the use of the word “obey”: “With biting sarcasm verging on reverse psychology, he [Fairy] goads viewers, using the imperative ‘obey,’ to take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas.”
Thus, even though OBEY uses the word “obey,” they are clearly hoping that the people they influence will not be obedient to the culture of advertising in America…unless, of course, they happen to be obedient to the advertising of OBEY itself and buy some of their products!
Needless to say, it has always been an interesting tug-of-war in Western culture between being obedient to cultural norms and being independent and entrepreneurial. Whatever the case, we, as Western people, are rather obsessed with the idea of being obedient.
Thus, it is only wise for those of us who follow Jesus to see what the Bible has to say about being obedient. One place to look is Jesus’ first miraculous sign in the Gospel of John.
In a previous post, I wrote about the story of Jesus turning to water to wine from Mary’s perspective. Now I’d like to look at the story from the perspective of the servants.
So there were some servants minding their own business at a wedding in Cana. It had likely been a long day, or even couple of long days. They had worked hard and were probably enjoying a moment of calm.
Then the wine ran out.
While the shame of this fact fell on the family throwing the party and not them, they knew that it likely meant lots of work for them. They’d probably have to go out and find some more wine, buy it with the master’s credit, and haul it back to the party. And they’d have to do all of that super fast!
But then Mary says to them, “Do whatever my son tells you” (John 2.5).
Apparently Mary had the authority to command them to do things, which likely meant that Mary was either serving as a wedding coordinator of sorts or that she was simply protecting the honor of the family responsible for the wine. Either way, these servants were prepared to follow Mary’s orders.
After a second Jesus told them to do the following: “Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top; then fill a cup, and deliver it to the headwaiter” (John 2.7-8).
I love the way John explains the next part: “They did exactly as they were instructed” (John 2.8).
They were obedient. Exactly obedient. They filled the part pots all the way up to their brims. Then they scooped some out and served it to the headwaiter.
If you stop and think about that for a second, it’s pretty crazy! They knew what they were doing. They were putting water in pots and then serving water to the headwaiter. And this headwaiter likely had the authority to get them in all kinds of trouble for serving him water when wine was in order.
But they were exactly obedient anyway.
For whatever reason they trusted Mary and by proxy they trusted Jesus too. They obeyed.
And somewhere in the midst of their obedience Jesus did a miracle which led to a deepening of the faith of Jesus’ disciples.
Obedient Followers of Jesus Today
One of the most common questions pastor-types get goes something like this: “I was listening to an international missionary talk about the cool things that God does over there, like miracles and stuff. Why don’t those things happen here in the West?”
I don’t really think there’s an easy answer to that question. But as of late I’ve been getting a feeling that the Bible may be pointing to something helpful.
And here it is in plain language: In the Gospels Jesus often does miraculous things within the context of obedience.
It’s not that obedience “causes” the miracle, but it appears that Jesus responds to obedient people by doing cool things on their behalf, or at least in their midst.
Friends, if that is true (which I think it is!), then perhaps we don’t see as many miraculous signs here in the West because we’re not all that obedient to Jesus.
We are obedient though!
- We’re obedient to the value of individualism.
- We’re obedient to the value of commercialism.
- We’re obedient to the value of materialism.
- We’re obedient to our selfish desires.
And the list could go on.
So here’s the question: To what or to whom are we obedient?
In the comments below let me know what you think about being obedient to Jesus.