Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

obey versus honor



In the molding of collective behaviors for the general good, what we sometimes see is that initially those behaviors must be motivated by the force of law. In other words, a legal requirement with an associated penalty must be employed to begin the process of re-training society in a certain way. Ideally, as time passes the legally mandated behavior becomes a part of the social norms and people behave in accordance with the new norm largely by habit instead of  because of the threat of judicial punishment. In addition to the pressure of a legal mandate, the dying out of previous generations likely will also contribute to the new behavior becoming entrenched in society.


This sort of process explains for me how the story of the Bible unfolds. In the OT mankind, as represented by the nation of Israel, operated under a legal system of various types. The Law of Moses with its penalties was one example. Much of the requirements of this system were directed at promoting proper behavior toward one's fellowmen. Laws were aimed at promoting societal harmony through respect for one another by prescribing acceptable behaviors and applying punishments when necessary.


In the NT we have Jesus coming and stating that the Golden Rule encapsulated all that the law sought to instill in mankind. Jesus said He was on earth to fulfill the law, to culminate its divine purpose in human history. With that fulfillment, mankind entered the societal phase in which the legal system had already served its purpose. Once an old generation which was irrevocably tied to the old way died out, mankind was ready to embark on a stage in which the behaviors of the Golden Rule were to be followed as a recognized norm without necessary recourse to judicial enforcement. In others words, the motivating force behind compliance with the Rule was to be honor and not fear. Instead of being motivated to obey by the threat of punishment, mankind was prepared to operate naturally and willingly, honoring the underlying principle formerly instill by the law.

 Once enough people recognize and respond to the inherent goodness and benefit of behaving with concern and respect for one another, the law becomes unnecessary. Obedience to law is replaced by honor and respect for a principle which is embraced because of its evident goodness. Some may still refuse to behave well, but the example of the majority and the demonstrated benefit of the new mode of behavior should encourage compliance in all, even the recalcitrant.