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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Radical Allegiance ~


The Greek word translated as obedience or allegiance is hupakoe, a combination of two words, hupo meaning "under" and akouo, "listen" or "hear." Obedience requires both submission (a compliant devotion to being "under") and attentively devoted listening. The Greek word carries no connotation of resistance, second-guessing or fear. Allegiance is a devotion of joy motivated by love.

Allegiance does not begin with action, but with contemplative hearing. Discipleship or allegiance to Christ is fostered by a Mary-type rest at His feet. Martha engaged in service to Jesus and His disciples by keeping busy preparing a meal but felt resentment in her soul that grew into her demand that Jesus tell Mary to help her. Martha's act of allegiance would have not been described by the Greek word hupakoe. "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to [Jesus] and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her' " (Luke 10:40-42).

"But only one thing is needed" and the rest will follow. Hupakoe is needed, the doing that follows it isn't needed but a fruit or delightful result, wherein obedience isn't an obligation but a desire burning within one's heart. Obedience to what is learned in akouo follows the prostration of hupo, a fire of submissive love that purges the heart of self-ambition which is physically, mentally and supernaturally liberating. 

"But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isaiah 66:2). Only the contrite of heart (as opposed to the proud) will "tremble" at God's words given in contemplation of Scripture or in prayer. And who will not tremble at the words of the Almighty? This trembling connotes excitement and awe, kind of like one would feel on getting a call from a world leader who wanted to give you a personal message. There are many instances in the Scriptures wherein a powerful angel appears to a human to provide a message from God. The typical response is "fear and trembling" soliciting the typical response "Don't be afraid." OK, even if I overcome fear, I will still tremble over the recognition of the venue by which God speaks to me and probably couldn't go to sleep that night in wonder and awe. Yet should I not experience the same response in prayer and contemplation of Scripture? Only if I take the later as routine and for granted. But if I don't, I will be among those of whom He says, "On this one I will look." Ah, to be in the favorable gaze of God Himself! That is heaven on earth!

"Therefore whoever hears these words of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall" (Matthew 7:24-27). Worthy of note is that Jesus never implied the storms would bypass those who hear His words but that they would withstand them. This illustration also introduces us to the "doing" that must follow the hearing. (Though many of us "do" first, then ask God's blessings on it. Sadly, we never hear anything.)

"Where I am, there My servant will be also" (John 12:26). And where is that? Where else would a servant be except at his master's side, listening first then following through with doing? Naturally, many of us are not happy with our masters or bosses or officials. Our "public servants" are well paid and rewarded and no sacrifice is asked of them. Serving Christ is totally and radically self-sacrificial. But if you don't find that to be of supreme joy, you don't know about Him or just don't know Him.

Christians, of course, do not have a monopoly on morals and ethics. For sure, many atheists and agnostics practice a higher standard of moral principles in the family and workplace than many who describe themselves as Christian. The question, however, concerns one's allegiance to whom or what? Obedience to a moral code or even to the Ten Commandments is not salvific. (The Pharisees whom Jesus frequently blasted for their obsession with keeping the "law" and commandments and never hearing the Spirit who uttered them are a good example.) The allegiance of all the prophets to God came at great personal cost and angst to them. Jonah was a particularly resistant prophet, but God reeled him in, as it were, through the mouth of a fish. Moses was not permitted to enter the land of promise to which he led the Hebrew nation, a punishment that, from our perspective, seems a bit harsh for hitting that water-gushing rock twice (in angry frustration) rather than the commanded one hit.

It seems the closer we are to God, the more demanding of allegiance and obedience He will be. This is true in the earthly realm. The demands of allegiance of a cabinet member in a president's or prime minister's administration greatly exceed that of the average citizen. We best be prepared for that, and be delighted over it.

To equate Jesus as a great teacher of morality and ethics to the Greek philosophers is to tame Him. Our world is not comfortable with those who venture boldly outside the boundaries of what is acceptable and politically and religiously correct. Much of Christ's teachings are demanding and even scary. That's why at one great point in Jesus' ministry, all of His disciples left Him except for the chosen twelve. "Will you leave me also? He asked. "Where would we go? Only you have the truth." And that truth wasn't easy to swallow. One could only "swallow" it in the context of self-sacrificial allegiance to it and the Source.

On His days on earth, Jesus was accused of being Satan's agent, a drunk, a glutton, and an iconoclast of Hebrew law and tradition. Was He? Of course not. Interestingly, however, no other leadership figure in other religious traditions were accused of such things. Why only Jesus? Along with the effort to tame Him and His radical teachings, there was the endeavor to discredit Him. How could the Messiah, the Incarnate of God, hang out with prostitutes and corrupt tax collectors? The prevailing explanation was that He was one of them. This categorization makes Jesus more understandable and palatable to the world. Sure, Jesus was one of us, but without participating in our sins, that is, until the end when He not only participated in them but incorporated them into His body. Thus, upon the cross, Jesus was indeed the glutton, the drunkard, the murderer, the slanderer and every thing we are. The mystery is that the Christ became us for our redemptive sakes.

Jesus exhibited radical obedience and allegiance to the Father, the Almighty. The same is required of His disciples. Are we willing? If not, why not?

Reflecting on this question will teach us much about ourselves and about our God.


John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
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