Why does God care about obedience? That may seem like an odd question, but I think it’s really important, especially since many people would get it wrong.
Our view of God’s motivation matters because it shapes who we think God is and what He cares about.
For example, Islam teaches obedience to Allah as the only way to survive his judgment. You earn credits to get into heaven by obedience to the Quran, the Hadiths, and other teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as interpreted by local leaders. (Note that there are about as many variations of Islam as there are Christianity.) Allah is a harsh taskmaster who must be appeased. This is a very different view of God than the God of scripture whom I seek to obey.
Obedience is our response to God’s love, not what we do to earn His love. Out of love for Him we desire to do what pleases Him for His pleasure, not so that we avoid punishment.
But it’s not quite as simple as just God loves us, so we obey Him. We are fallen creatures engaged in a spiritual battle that distorts our view of reality. We don’t always recognize what’s good for ourselves and what pleases God. God knows what is best for us and helps us by telling us what we should do to experience His best. Sometimes our obedience flows from a heart of gratitude, and sometimes it’s an act of self-discipline that demonstrate our commitment to God.
So God didn’t maliciously say, “Here’s a tough command — let’s see who’s good enough to pass this test!” Out of love for us and His absolute knowledge of how we were designed to work, He commands us do the things that lead us to understand and know Him, and to find fulfillment in living our lives as He intended.
Some of those commands are unintuitive. We only recognize the truth in them after we follow them in obedience. And even our obedience is only made possible when we recognize we are not capable of obedience on our own. We’re dependent on God to enable us.
God knows that a life lived in obedience to His teaching is the most fulfilling life we can imagine. Sometimes we’re just too stubborn to recognize it.