Archives For obligation


Erik Cooper —  January 6, 2010 — Leave a comment

Responding to my desires is easy. What’s inside of me just naturally comes out.  It doesn’t take much thought, energy, or discipline to do what I want to do.  My essence just responds. It’s natural.  My desires are formed by my DNA, my culture, my socio-economic upbringing, my life experiences.  Lots of things.  Unfortunately, those “lots of things” also includes my fallen, broken, sinful nature.  In that way, living from what I want is incredibly dangerous.

I have other options, too.  I can live under the weight of obligation. Completely opposite of my desires, living by someone else’s expectations is outside-in, guilt-driven behavior modification. You know what I mean.  Maybe you’re 28 years old with 2 kids of your own, but you still hear the voice of your un-approving mother in the back of your head (or maybe in your actual ears).  Your actions still reflect your desire to please her, and you live under the intense scrutiny of her obligation on your life.

(Incidentally, that’s what religion does, too. It obligates.  Sets up impossible outward-focused expectations while simultaneously offering no hope for actually attaining them.  And I know there are lots of you out there that live under those very real and very guilt-filled religious chains. Some are just afraid to admit it because you’re heritage and your understanding of God are all wrapped up in the lie. It’s OK, you can be honest here.)

What if there’s a third option? A door number 3?

Mark 1:12 says “The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness…” (NLT)

At first glance, the word compel says force (in fact that’s in the actual definition).  But if you look closer, there is an element of compulsion that gives a different vibe.  To compel actually means to exert an “irresistible force.” Almost as if it causes me to drop my defenses and willfully subvert or push beyond what’s naturally in my DNA.

Being compelled is completely different than guilt-ridden obligation.  It’s also very different than surrendering to my natural, in-born desires.  It’s responding willfully, not from desire or obligation, but because I love, and trust, and believe in the One Who is compelling me. He’s an irresistible force.

I may not always want what He wants, but I do want Him.

Do you think Jesus desired to journey into the desert for 40 days with no food?  Doubtful.  But I don’t think He felt obligated either.  He was willfully responding to the irresistible force of the Father’s love. He was compelled.

How do you live? By what just feels natural?  From your in-born desires?  Out of obligation?  Guilty “hoop-jumping” to keep others happy with you (including God)?

What about door #3?


Erik Cooper —  April 6, 2009 — Leave a comment

As children we’re naturally inquisitive.  We question everything.  Not out of doubt or distrust, but simply because experience has given us no point of reference.  So we ask…sometimes obnoxiously, often irritatingly…why? I can subliminally hear my 3 year old son pepperng me even now.  “Why daddy…why?  Daddy…why?  Why?  (Because I said so!  Every dad’s trump card, right?).

But somewhere along the line, most of us lose that curiosity and one of two things happens.  We either stop asking why and all of life becomes habitual, cultural, the norm.  Or we can’t find a good answer to why and cynicism and disillusionment overtake our sense of wonder.

Why do we go to church? Now there’s a great question that many of us have simply stopped asking.  We do it out of habit, out of ritual, out of obligation.  Our parents made us.  Our guilt drives us.  Culture overtakes intentionality and we no longer even ask the question.  We just do it…because…just because.

Or we just never found a good answer.  Watching others do something we see absolutely no reason for is a recipe for cynical skepticism.  Some of us live underneath layers of unanswered “why’s,” and they’ve made us cold, hard, and calloused.

God is not afraid of our why’s.  In fact, He wants us to ask them, dig into them, mine them out.  He loves our pursuit.  Have you stopped askingLost sight of a good answer?  Go ahead and ask it…why? You just might be surprised at the answers.