Seeing God, Feeling God, and Obedience

My pastor at church this morning preached about the magi of Matthew 2.  According to my pastor, the star that proclaimed Jesus’ birth was there for everyone to see.  The reason that the magi saw it was that they were looking for it.  The pastor talked about how we should be on the lookout for God’s presence in the world.

That is a struggle for me.  I fear being dogmatic about where God is in the world, like the Christians who casually claim that “God told” them such-and-such.  At the same time, do I want to go to the other extreme and to say that I cannot know anything at all about what God is doing in the world?  Can God use events to instruct me and to help my Christian walk?  I think so.  To respond to God, one needs to know something about God.  God is not totally hidden, right?

I watched an excellent movie about Christian musician Rich Mullins last night.  I will write about it sometime this coming week.  It was a 2014 movie called Ragamuffin.  In that movie, the character of Rich Mullins was talking about not feeling God.  He then said that Christianity is not about feelings, but obedience.

The concept of Christian obedience has long been scary to me.  Maybe that is because I associate it with perfectionism, legalism, or God mandating that I be something that I am not, as opposed to respecting where I am.  But I should not repudiate the concept of obeying God.  That is something concrete, something to hold on to when the feelings are not there, something that honors and aims to implement God’s character.  It is respecting the existence of truths, regardless of what one feels.

Obedience does not necessarily have to entail immediate perfectionism, either.  One can seek out opportunities and paths of obedience.  One does not need to be perfect to do that.

One would like for some feeling of God to be there, though.  Mother Theresa did good in the world, and the world is better on account of her example and her ministry.  But couldn’t God have encouraged her more than God did?  Maybe God wanted her to be an example of someone who holds on to truth, even if the feelings are not there.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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