What’s wrong with the word ‘obey’?

This one may stir some emotion…….

It appears that lately the word obey has become one of those ‘no-say-words’.  We’ve dropped it from many of the wedding vows and each time the Bible passage is read: Wives obey (be submissive) your husbands (Col. and Eph), people twitch a bit.   What is so bad about that word, obey?

We seem to have no problem with children obeying.  As a matter of fact, when they disobey, they are sometimes punished.  A disobedient child in a store gets attention and lots of ‘shakes of the head’.   And, the obedience of children is taught because it helps the child, not hurts them.  (In healthy homes, of course).   But, I guess when we reach a certain age (?), we don’t have to obey anymore.

Jesus certainly obeyed…..boy, did he ever.  His obedience cost him his life.  But his obedience was his choice and he obeyed and submitted (another no-no word) to his Father’s will.

But wives obeying?  Well, that is not good, that seems to show that we are second class citizens, that we are weak, that we don’t know enough to make our own decisions…..or does it?  Follow those Scripture references and you will see that the very next line is ‘husbands, love your wives’.  Love, I think that it the key word, the word that makes all the difference, the word that makes obedience ok. 

If a husband truly loves his wife, the way that Christ loves his Church, the way that the Father loves the Son, then obedience is not a chore, it is a joy.  Is it easy?  Never.  But it is what flows from love.  Love does not demand blind obedience, it  gently asks for trust, faithfulness, obedience.  Love knows that staying true brings joy, peace, and all the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Love is never forced. 

Maybe we should look at our definition of ‘obey’.  One is to follow the command or guidance of……  If obeying a husband requires you to act in a way that hurts you or that makes you unequal than I would say that that is not what is meant by that Scripture verse.  If a husband truly loves (Biblical love) his wife, than the relationship is equal and the word ‘obey’ takes on a whole new meaning.  There is mutual respect, sharing of ideas, decisions, trusting and relying on one another.  There is shared love and shared obedience. 

If Christ obeyed his Father, than can it be a bad thing?????  Anyway, some random thoughts…..be easy on me!

14 thoughts on “What’s wrong with the word ‘obey’?

    1. Thanks Kaz, means a lot. A trembling finger hit that ‘publish’ button. Don’t want to be understood – just saying that obedience is not an ego thing, it’s a love thing.

  1. Oh I am SO glad that you posted it – obey is one of those words that requires us to look within and not just to say what we won’t “submit” or do!! (more on submit in a moment.)

    The Latin root of the word means “to listen.” Think about that… this is why etymology matters and why we need to (ahem-clears throat) listen and not simply react.

    To be obedient is first to listen… Is there a word more attuned to Advent than that? Is there a word more attuned to being followers of Christ, than that?

    And in closing, I think that submit also gets a bad rap. To “stand under” or to “understand.” Hmmm, that goes with listening quite well, doesn’t it?

    I am no shrinking violet as you know, but I pray always to be willing, obedient – to God and to my loved ones and to my community – and to submit.

    Thanks be to God.

    1. Glad you like it Fran and your comments add so much. After reading your comments I thought about the fact that obedience is linked closely with humility – and that’s a really good thing.

  2. First, thank you for what you’ve just said on my Blog. I’ve responded there.

    Now … about this post. It takes bravery and courage to write like this.

    I believe since we took away the word “obey” from marriage vows many more marriages have ended in divorce. Or am I a dodddering old geezer who knows not what he talks about?

    Every organisation, institution or civilised set up must have a system where individuals are willing to “obey” what others ask … in an environment of benevolence, caring and love of course, as you so rightly point out.

    However, modern society has learnt not to obey authority, not to obey governments, not to obey teachers, and not to obey in marriage. In fact the very act of disobedience has become synonymous with being assertive and has become a virtue … and we reap the results!

    God bless.

  3. The word “obey” can be a tough sell in a representative republic like the United States. To obey is undemocratic: we are rugged individuals here and that is how we tamed the wilderness; we do our own thing. Right? Wrong.

    “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Obedience to our heavenly Father means we are dying to self–taking up our Cross daily. Obedience to the Lord gives us revelation knowledge from Him to us so that we can be a beacon of light to those around us.

    The Lord created men to be masculine; the Lord created women to be feminine. The men must love their wives like Christ loves the church–it is a sacrificial love. Women must respect their husbands and submit to them. The word “submission” is a real four-letter word to many women.

    Some of the most Godly women I have ever met, women who had great depth of spirituality, submitted to their husbands. The reason why Joyce Meyer has such a powerful, anointed, world-wide ministry is because she submits to her husband.

  4. I couldn’t agree more, so glad you hit the “publish” button, more needs to be said along these lines…..We are really rebellious at heart and we don’t want anyone telling us what to do, isn’t that what caused the “fall”??? Obeying God will only lead to our benefit, it may not feel great sometimes but in the end, we come out victorious! This word has been twisted to have a very negative connotation in today’s society…..but without obeying laws, we have anarchy! Lori

  5. nothing but a big AMEN from me on this one! Not that I always do it… but I KNOW that is what God asks of me… He wants my obedience, NOT my sacrifice in the place of obedience.

    Good post Andie!


  6. There is a maturity needed to obey as the word means. A need to understand that someone need not expect to be obeyed ‘just because they say so’ and not to obey blindly and without understanding. Obedience to God mean ‘listening’ and accepting the purpose in what we are asked to do even if it is difficult; accepting that we don’t always (ever) see the big picture and that his guidance and his ‘request’ for obedience – after all he cannot demand it – comes from His love for us.
    every blessing.

  7. However, the masculine/feminine thing I don’t agree with – labelling people’s behaviour because of their gender is nonsense. Marriages are relationships of respect and partnership – or at least mine is and that’s 26 years old – husband and wife, not husband over wife.
    The submission to God has no ‘hidden agenda’ – God is love – the Trinity is Love.
    Human relationships are ‘strangely’ a lot more complicated. People are a mixture of masculine and feminine and even that definition is made by us. Paul also tells us there is no man or woman if we are clothed in Christ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: