Did Jesus Ever Feel Obligated to Do Anything?

How do you feel when there is a sense of obligation tied to plans you have? Rarely is the word obligation associated with a positive sense of responsibility, although that is clearly one of its definitions. But I’d guess 96% of the time, when you feel obligated to make or keep plans, go somewhere or do something, instead of a right sense of duty and just weight you are honored to carry, there is a sense of… “I wish there was a way to get out of this.”  When telling others about these plans, you use words like “have to” “need to” or “should”.

I was processing this while on a walk a few days ago, and I began to compare this way of thinking to how Jesus would have thought.

I find myself doing that the more I study Him.

So the resounding question in my mind became, “would Jesus have ever felt obligated to do anything?” And I may be wrong, but I can’t see it happening his whole life long, according to the accounts of Mark, Luke, Matthew and His closest friend, John. Well, up until the night before He was crucified when he said “O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  But in many accounts, He didn’t even finish his sentence before adding:  yet not my will, but Yours be done.

In adding that last part, he was essentially saying He had a will to survive (like every human being innately has), but He had another will – one greater: He wanted the Father’s will – even if that meant suffering. Even torture on a cross.

Because Jesus declared his own will to match his Father’s, the only sense of obligation I see in his life – even in the angst-filled hours in the garden, was in a just and right and responsible sense – a heavy weight He was honored to carry and carry through to completion. This obligation – in the right, just, responsible sense, actually refers to Him being bound.

Bound?! Jesus? The very embodiment of freedom?

Yes. Because He is Truth. You’ve heard the saying “My word is my bond” – well, the only human being who can say that and mean it is Jesus. He is bound by His own word. But His word is the only thing that could or did ever bind him.

He may be persuaded to change the course of a circumstance because of faith put on display, but He is not a man that He should lie.  He speaks peace or order over a thing, and it follows His command – from eyes to wind. Light to death. His words are power. He fulfilled every single prophecy spoken about Him from the beginning of creation.  Like it states in the first definition above, He is “legally bound” – or obligated – to complete, fulfill, follow through on his own word.

This should make us, his followers, sigh the biggest sigh of relief and rest peacefully every night, knowing and believing His promises will come to pass for us as a people – and as His individual friends.

In pretty much every other sense of the word, I think it is safe to say He never felt obligated to do anything.  We can also sigh in relief knowing we never have to feel obligated to do anything either! No wonder the feeling we get when we cancel plans we’ve been dreading is the feeling of freedom! Here’s why:

Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing.  The time He’d spend with the Father created a bond between them that afforded Him security, power, authority, and reassurance of His identity. If you continually walked in these things, would you ever feel obligated to do anything? Not in the negative sense. That kind infers bondage.

For if there is something we ought to do, the Holy Spirit will speak to us saying so, and cause a stirring in our heart to desire it because He desires it.  Now, the enemy may attempt to make us believe a lie and feel terrible or feel responsible for things we ought not. But let’s train our spiritual ears to hear our Shepherd’s voice. Let’s reject the imposter’s voice that would have us take on more than we should, resulting in heaviness, stress, co-dependency and more. That is not part of the abundant life He has. We are safe when we can pinpoint and embrace with confidence the things the Lord is telling us to commit to (and to let go of those things he is saying to let go of – to free yourself of the responsibility of – without feeling guilt or shame).

Our response of YES to his invitation, because of the bond we’ve created with Him over time, means, I WANT to do it – because YOU want me to, Abba Father.  Hmm… Sounds familiar. Kinda like, “…not my will, but YOURS be done.” This matching of the mortal will to the Father’s can only happen safe inside a deep-rooted, trust-filled relationship. Oh that we could all experience that!

One of my favorite lyrics by Hillsong United is, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Everything I am, for your Kingdom’s cause.” It shares this same sentiment.

This is my prayer – that my heart would break with His, and rejoice along with His. So that every action I take – every reaction I make throughout my days would come from a place of total trust and resulting obedience. And like Jesus, may my only sense of obligation – the only way I am bound – be to my word.

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Let Him Interrupt

His boy was finally home. The lost son had appeared around the bend. The dead – was now alive. It was celebration time! What a scandalous story of mercy, the Prodigal Son. This son as-good-as spit in his father’s face, asking for his inheritance early, left home and spent it in no time – frittering away his portion of what his father worked hard to earn. It wasn’t his remorse, actually, but his hunger pangs that drew him back home. Jesus tells the story with precision and purpose recorded in the gospel of Luke.

I am focusing today, on just a couple of moments in it, where he is sitting in shame and pig slop, considering the worst case scenario vs. the best. What to do. Do I dare return? If so, what would I have to say for myself? I’ll pick up the scripture in verse 18 of Luke 15, where the young man is thinking and planning it out:

“I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”

This is human reasoning. First admission. Confession. “I have sinned against God and against you.” And then there is an equating of that sin with a real felt unworthiness to continue as being counted a son, or heir. “I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” And his third statement is one of working to be accepted and to earn his keep at his father’s estate. He begs to be allowed to work there. “Please take me on as a hired servant”. Our equivalent of “Will Work For Food”.

It’s human nature to think you are unworthy of his goodness, his mercy, his love. Especially just after you’ve royally messed up. I urge you, let him interrupt you as you pray and reason. Let him stop you mid-sentence. Right there. And not allow you to finish your thoughts  – your “Please take me back, but only use me to serve you.” Your… “I will do all I can to please you God.” Your “I will read my Bible every day, now.” “I will volunteer at church consistently from now on.” “I will keep my promises to you.” “I will pray more.” “I will stop wasting time, money – my life.” “I will…”

What have you prayed?

Let’s pick back up in the story where he finally comes home – in his dirt and stench, with nothing left but poor reasoning and plans:

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]

And that is as far as he got. Because his compassion-filled father interrupted before he had the chance to say what he’d rehearsed in his mind – before getting to the big pull – what he thought would be the kicker – the deciding factor: “Let me work for you as a hired servant.”

But the good father interrupted – to speak to his servants, actually. The option, the plan his son had to work – to perform for a wage for his provision – was never even voiced, and certainly never considered:

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

May I suggest, that the Father – our Father in heaven – longs to interrupt your “I will…”‘s with his, “Quick!…” Notice in the passage above, where he interrupted. His son’s plan was:

1. confession 

2. declaration of unworthiness of son-ship 

3. proposition to earn his wage in order to eat

The father in the parable interrupts after #2. But make no mistake. It’s not because he agrees with #2 and just cuts him off before he gets to #3. He addresses the unchanging of his boy’s status as son first thing, when he says, bring the finest robe and get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. These were signs of this time, of dignity, wealth, authority and family identity. Of belonging, and the position of son, restored. And if that wasn’t implication enough, I see him (yelling excitedly over his shoulder), “this son of mine was dead and now has returned to life!” “This son of mine.” Well, that settles that. The father would never disown his son. No matter what. Nothing would change the relationship at least on the part of Dad. His love and bond were too strong. Even stronger than before!

So that leaves one element in the speech of the squanderer left unaddressed by his dad, #1, the confession of sin.

I believe that was intentional too. No need to bring up the sin and betrayal. To say, “I can’t believe you even bought prostitutes.” No need to talk about it at all. His son brought it up. That was all that needed to be said. Nothing more, nothing less on that. Perhaps because there really should be a humble admission – an honest confession.  But when that happens, it is usually evidence of a heart and mind already changed. Repentance. And that is the starting point for all renewal. All restoration. No need to take him by the arm, walk him back to the pig pen and rub his nose in the nasty pods. There was already repentance.

I know as a parent, I’ve been guilty of doing just that – bringing up the past – dragging my child through the details, even amidst an obvious broken and contrite heart. Why? Many times, I’ve even implemented some made-up punishment vaguely related to the wrong. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s my attempt at making sure they know the “depth” of wrong done so they aren’t tempted to go there again. But God is changing me. He’s softening my heart to be more like his. To reflect more mercy, more empathy. More like the father in this parable. It’s been slow, but I see some change.

If you read the rest of Luke 15, you’ll notice his son never bringing up the proposal again. Never bringing up the betrayal committed, the dishonor or the unworthy feeling he had still being considered a son. Because what his father said when he interrupted – this was the new narrative. This was truth. Identity. Significance. Purpose.

Whenever the voice of guilt turns to condemnation, or when your inner voice is declaring unworthiness of being a child of God, but only worthy to serve…

Whenever you feel like you need to perform for His approval, or work for a perceived view of your right standing, or keep doing more, more, more for His provision and sustenance, I implore you ~ repent. Change the way you think about Him.

Let Him Interrupt.

i’ll have religion with a side of guilt, please

last night was good. ricky & i talked and messed around and laughed til like 1am. i got to know him better. i love it when that happens. the next morning’s usually another story, but never told with regret.

we were talking about how God wants to engage with us, in a way. a way foreign to most people. and how people, espec. those like us who grew up in church w/the flanelboard Jesus stories, we don’t really get it. but i think i got a sliver more of it yesterday, if i could share: God isn’t cool with the whole pyramid analogy ~ Jesus 1st, others 2nd, & you last (“J.O.Y.”), a concept i always thought was so noble & humble & tried to achieve, but never could.

He’s not impressed when i goal myself to spend the 1st 20 minutes with him every day for the next week, before anything else. he may smile, but what he really wants Continue reading