Christian Life, Married Life, Theology

Obedience to God Shouldn’t Come From Obligation, but from Love

Zach and I have been married two and a half years now. We now know that there are some things that each of us do that drive the other crazy. Here’s a short list:


Things That Drive Ashleigh Crazy:

  • When Zach leaves the kitchen cabinets open.
  • If Zach forgets to put things away (particularly forgets to put things back in the fridge)
  • If Zach puts off doing “useful” things to play video games
  • When Zach refuses to sleep under the sheets


Things that Drive Zach Crazy:

  • When Ashleigh picks at her face, hands, lips, or any other part of her body (a terrible habit I’ve had since I was really young and have tried hard to break for years but with no luck)
  • If Ashleigh leaves her shoes next to the front door instead of putting them where they belong.
  • If Ashleigh continues to ignore Ramsey (our dog) as he whines to go outside until Zach has to get up and take him out.
  • When Ashleigh mumbles when she speaks


What We Do With These Lists Shows Our Love (Or Lack Thereof)

Now, we might not have been aware of some of these “pet peeves” (or bad habits or whatever you want to call them) before we got married. We may have originally done them without knowing that they drive the other person crazy. We would have been held innocent at that point.


Now we know. Now if we do those things, we know that they drive the other person nuts. Sure, we still do these things from time to time, but we try our best not to. We do that because we love each other.


If I know that the four things on Zach’s list drive him nuts, but I still continue to purposefully do them, I’m not being very loving. Because I love him and want him to be happy, I try my very hardest to do the things that make him feel loved and not do the things that annoy him.


God Has a List Too

The same should be true in our relationship with God. The Bible contains God’s list of things we can do that drive him crazy. Every time you see a sin list, that’s God’s pet peeve list. Actually, it’s stronger than that.  It’s a list of things that we can do that hurt God. It’s not just that we hurt ourselves when we do those things (and in most cases that happens too). We’re also deliberately doing something that God has asked us not to do.


Now, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too badly about the things we did before we read the Bible or before we met God. We might not have had any motivation not to do those things (just like I had no motivation to put away shoes before I got married because no one else really saw them). Now that we know though, we can’t forget and we can no longer live like we don’t know.


That doesn’t mean we should live under a sense of obligation. Instead, we should live responding to God’s love, seeking to do the things that bring God joy and make him feel loved (which are also mentioned in the Bible). We should also try our very hardest not to do the things which hurt him.


We Can Hurt God or Show Him Love

God has made himself vulnerable to us. We have the ability to hurt him because he loves us so very much. The same thing happens in marriage. The more you love someone, the greater the potential for hurt.


Knowing that, we should be oh so thoughtful of how our actions impact God. Not because we’re wanting to be perfect or because we’re trying not to mess up our lives (which is the way I’ve often thought of obedience in the past), but because we love him so very much. When we follow the “rules” that God has set for us, we show God that we love and trust him enough to listen to him and respect his desires for us.


Honestly, this is a newer concept to me, but I think it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s one of many lessons that this whole marriage thing has taught me. The thing is, you don’t have to be married to experience it. The same thing is true between parents and children and even between friends. If you truly love someone, you seek to do the things that please them and not to do the things that hurt them.


We’ll Never Be Perfect, But Obedience is a Labor of Love

We’ll never be perfect at this, not with other people and not with God. I still pick at my face far too much. Zach catches me. He tries to help me stop. I want to stop because I know it bothers him, but the habit is very deeply ingrained. I have no idea how long it will take to stop it.


The same is true with us and sin. It’s a habit so deeply ingrained in us that we can never completely root it out this side of heaven. However, God is there to help us. He also understands the battle we wage. He celebrates every victory and forgets and forgives every failure.


May we never see our call to obedience as an obligation. Instead, may we see it as a labor of love, a small token of appreciation for the one who has given everything for us.


Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

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  1. Julie Jo Severson

    Great comparison! So simple, yet very very wise. You have wonderful perspective so early on. I’ve been married 22 years. Early on in my marriage, the point where you are at right now, the annoying habits were getting the best of me. I wanted so much for marriage to be all that I’d always dreamed and imagined it would be. A prince and a castle. And the more disappointed I became, the less I tried. I eventually got a grip on it, though, and gained new appreciation for my hubby, who is a really, really good guy. This can happen in our faith walk, too. So easily we can feel disappointed and stop trying. Even walk away. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ashleigh Rich

      Thanks, Julie, for the kind words! Even though I might have good perspective, I’m still learning how to live it out. It can be so hard sometimes to put into the action the things we know in our head. Thanks for reading!

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