Do I have to?

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Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).

Obedience is an important virtue in the Orthodox Christian life. Our Lord tells us, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). But in today’s secular society obedience is not a virtue. “No one can tell me what to do” or, “I did it my way.” This secular culture does not trust authority. We have rights as individuals to protect us from abuses of authority.

In family life Saint Paul tells children to “obey your parents in the Lord.” He tells parents “not to provoke your children to anger.” So how are we to understand obedience in the Orthodox Christian home? This is a good time to discuss this in light of the fact we just celebrated the feast of the Annunciation. The Most Holy Theotokos is, as the icon of the saved, the example of Christian obedience. “Lord, let it be to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38).

On a simple level, obedience means to do what you are told. Yet how common is it for a child to tell his or her parent in anger, “Why do I have to do this?” The parent then may angrily respond, “Because I am your father (or mother) and I told you to!” Is this the only language children can understand? This is not the virtue of obedience. It might be a start to get us there. But there is something missing.

Can you picture Mary ever saying in anger to the Archangel Gabriel, “Why do I have to have this child?” only to hear Gabriel also angrily respond, “Because God told you to have it and you have to obey Him”? Can you ever imagine Jesus at Gethsemane in anger asking, “Father, why do I have to be crucified?” with the Father answering, “Because I am your Father, and I told you to, and you have to obey me!”

The virtue of obedience is formed in us over time as we seek to know Christ in the fullness of truth and to keep his commandments.  Trust is the foundation upon which obedience is built. This virtue is especially relevant during the time of the Great Fast as we may learn to grow in obedience in a God pleasing manner. With the Sunday of the Cross coming up just after the Annunciation, both being the icons of Orthodox Christian obedience, I can’t think of a better time to further speak on this next week.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you,

The unworthy +Paul  

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