Trust and Obedience

Last Sunday’s post presented a hypothetical situation involving my reporting on weather to someone who ignored the reports.  It didn’t include my giving a command to dress a certain way–because I was focusing on the issue of trust, not the issue of obedience.

I was asking why, if I have proven myself to be trustworthy, someone would refuse to trust me.  What could be the motivation for ignoring someone who has been truthful and consistent?  The answer which occurs to me is “pride.”  There is in our nature a self-determinism which has been known–especially in the teen years–to fly in the face of all evidence that flight conditions are unsafe and one had better stay on the ground.  This “I know best what’s best for me” attitude is the foundation of American independence.  It’s also the basis for post-modernism’s refusal to accept anything as objectively, absolutely true.

And if there is no Source of authoritative truth, then there is no obligation to either believe or act on it, is there?  A philosopher once said, “If there is no God, everything is permissible.”  And so we hear, “Well, that may be true for you, but it isn’t for me.”   Truth becomes purely pragmatic, and a matter of personal taste or preference or expediency.

So if I offer an insight, a fact, an observation–even if I am proven right time after time–the listener feels no compunction to heed my words or to act on them, if it’s not convenient for him at the time.  Now, notice that we’re still looking at the issue of trust, and why being trustworthy doesn’t mean that one will be trusted.  I can point to endless historic examples of warnings which went unheeded, to the everlasting regret of the hearers.  What of Winston Churchill’s cautions regarding Germany’s rearming after WWI?  Nearer to us, what about the reports that the levee in New Orleans wouldn’t withstand a category 5 hurricane?   We can go back through the centuries and play “if only” all along the way…and never stop for a generation’s rest until we arrive at the tree in the garden where the couple stood staring and salivating…

“If you eat the fruit of this tree, you will die.”  That was the bare statement.  It came from the One who had made them, along with every other creature in that glorious place.  Who else would know better?  And yet…

“You won’t really die…”  was whispered along the bough of the beautiful tree.  And they believed it.  Just like that.  It suited them to believe it.  They wanted a bite.  Why shouldn’t they have it?  Why not, indeed.  And there was born the first sin.  When Ultimate trustworthiness met mistrust…it was a grave mistake.  To be worthy of unquestioning trust means to be worthy of being obeyed.  And so to disobey is worse than a mistake.  It is a sin.

All other authority on earth which we are asked to obey is derived from that First authority.  Parents are vested with power by God Himself, as are rulers and governors of nations or cities.  To the extent of their authority, they are to be obeyed by those under their rule.  Over time, we have learned that there are unjust rulers–and there are evil parents.  But this abuse of power doesn’t negate the fact that such power, given by God, exists.  The abuses, however, have provided a compelling excuse (for this generation particularly) to sluff off all those who would give direction and boundaries to life.  Thus, it becomes convenient to disbelieve in a sovereign God, because if He ISN’T in charge…well, then, no one is.  Or we all are.  

In order to disobey with impunity, what’s offered now is the excuse of mistrust…and herein is the lie.  In the face of all reason, all past experience which points to the trustworthiness of the one in charge, the person under authority trusts his own judgment–which is really his own preference.  He accepts the lie:

“You don’t know what’s best for me.”
“You don’t care about me. You don’t want me to have fun.”
“You just like being the boss.”
“You can’t control what I do…you’re too old to understand what I feel.”
“It can’t hurt me.  It’s not really addictive, you know.”
“That’s a stupid law anyway.”
“Everyone else is doing it.  You’re just being mean.”

Do you hear a chuckle, a sinister snicker coming from the underbrush?  “You won’t really die…”

And all around, proud, self-reliant souls are puffing out their chests and saying, “I can think for myself.”  “I’m not hurting anyone else.”  “This is what’s right for me…you just don’t understand how I feel.”  “Who’ll ever know?  It’s not that big a deal.”

“I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.”

And that is how shipwreck happens.  When a sinful and foolish pride masquerades as independent thinking…when mistrust is just a mistake.

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