Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our Obdurate Nature

I like to read fiction on occasion.  Sometimes it feels like going on vacation without all the hassle and the hotel bills.  Anyway, I was reading this book recently about a man who was given the opportunity to time travel into the past in order to make some serious changes to history.  Without going into detail about the book, I’ll just say that early in the story, the author used a word I didn’t understand.  He said: “The past is obdurate.”


Well, there was a word I’d never heard before.  Usually, in situations like that I just skim over the word and don’t worry about it.  I generally pick up the gist from the context and go on.  But then, he used the same phrase again.  I was perplexed that second time, but still skimmed it.  Then, there was the third time.  Okay, then I got really bothered, but I still stubbornly resisted the need to pull out a dictionary and look it up.  On about the fourth or fifth time he used the same word, I finally overcame my stubborn resistance and looked it up.  I just had to know. 

Guess what it meant!

A stubborn unwillingness to change.

Without knowing it, I was actually doing what the word meant.  I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of actually doing what I needed to do…change what I was doing…in order to learn what the word meant.  I was obdurate.

Since then, “obdurate” has become one of my favorite new words.

However, I’ve realized that I am obdurate in other ways in my life besides the refusal to pick up a dictionary.  For example, I think that eating healthier is an excellent idea, but I’m obdurate about changing what I eat.  I think that becoming more physically active would be so good for my health, but I’m obdurate about getting out of my Lazy Boy recliner.  (I’m sitting in it as I write this.)  I think a consistent morning quiet time would be an ideal way to start the day, but I’m obdurate about getting out of bed any earlier.  I sometimes have a problem with being stubbornly resistant to changing some lifestyle choices.

Can you relate?

Sometimes, I think churches can be obdurate.  The Bible describes some of our spiritual predecessors as “stubborn” and “stiff-necked.”  Those words seem like excellent synonyms for obdurate.

The problem with us is that we are fickle people.  We aren’t the first, and we won’t be the last.  And, we are creatures of habit.  As with the past in the book I was reading, we are obdurate to change. 
We love the idea of change as long as it doesn’t affect our routine.

We LOVE the idea of change…until it actually means really changing something.

We LOVE the concept of growing in our Bible knowledge…until we are asked to attend a Bible class on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening… when we’d rather sleep in or go home to relax.

We LOVE the idea of baptizing new converts to the Faith…until it means that we need to step out there and share our personal faith with someone new; putting our pride or our relationships on the line.

We LOVE the idea of a vibrant congregational worship…until it means that we (…I…Me…Myself…) need to sing out with more enthusiasm; allowing what we feel in our hearts to be seen on our faces.

Folks, admit it.  Sometimes we are even obdurate about where we sit.


But, isn’t change one of the greatest aspects of being a Christian?  Isn’t change at the heart of what we are about?  We start off our walk of faith by changing from a worldly lifestyle to a Christ-centered and Christ-driven lifestyle.  We are told in Romans 12:2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Flexibility with a purpose has been demonstrated to us by the example of Paul:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  1 Corinthians 9:19-23

And then, of course, there is the example of Christ himself.  Present at the creation of the world.  Accustomed to the wonders of the heavenly realm.  An intricate part of the Godhead Trinity.  THE SON OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE!

Good thing He wasn’t obdurate!

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 5:8-10

What if he had been obdurate about changing his surroundings?  What if he didn’t want to share his Father with the world?  What if he didn’t want to come down and be with the rest of us?  What if he had been stubbornly resistant to the idea of sacrificing himself to save our souls?

But, Jesus was not obdurate.  He gave it up.  He gave it all.

So, I ask you to examine yourselves.  How do you react when some change takes place or some request is made?  Is your nature to be resistant, or do you look to the ways that the changes might be for the best…to help you grow…or to reach the lost?  Ultimately, will we be known for our heart for the Lord, our love for the lost, and our desire to do what it takes?  Or, will we be known for our stubborn resistance.  Will we be flexible, or will we be obdurate?

And, as for me…will I get out of my chair, exercise, and start eating right?  Will I get my tail out of bed early enough to have a quiet time?  Will I battle my obdurate nature?

I will if you will.  What do you say?

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