Volume IV - Spirituality

The Virtues

Obedience

In speaking of Christ’s humility, Saint Paul said that Jesus was obedient to God His Father “unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) In truth, Jesus obeyed God in all that He did.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my will, but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:38-39)

All that Jesus has and is, He has received from God the Father. From all eternity, the Son has listened to the Father in order to do His work and to accomplish His will. The will of God is that the Son should become a man, take up the sins of the world and die in the flesh in order to raise the dead that “nothing would be lost.” Jesus has accomplished this in divine and perfect obedience, giving the example to all.

My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt…if this cannot pass until I drink it, Thy will be done. (Matthew 26:39, 42)

There is no degradation in obedience to God, nothing shameful or demeaning. On the contrary, to do the will of God is glory and life. It is the highest dignity of man, his greatest joy and delight. (Cf. Psalm 119) It is the way of perfection for all, even for the man Jesus Himself.

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered, and being made perfect He became the source of salvation to all who obey Him. (Hebrews 5:8-9)

Disobedience to God and His Son Jesus Christ is the source of all sin. Refusal to submit to God in all things is the cause of all sorrow and death. Those who hear the Gospel and fail to enter into the eternal rest of God, do so only “because of disobedience.” (Hebrews 5-6, Cf. Deuteronomy 4:29-31)

In the Orthodox spiritual tradition, obedience is a basic virtue: obedience to the Lord, to the Gospel, to the Church (Matthew 18:17), to the leaders of the Church (Hebrews 13:7), to one’s parents and elders, to “every ordinance of man” (I Peter 2:13, Romans 13:1), “to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 6:21) There is no spiritual life without obedience, no freedom or liberation from sinful passions and lusts. To submit to God’s discipline in all of its human forms, is the only way to obtain “the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) God disciplines us as His children out of His great love for us. “He disciplines us for our good, that we might share His holiness.” (Cf. Hebrews 12:3-11) Our obedience to God’s commandments and discipline is the exclusive sign of our love for Him and His Son.

He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (...) If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:21-24)