Passion Or Obligation?


Have you read The Shack?

I know it’s a controversial book. It seems that people either love it or hate it, depending on whether they understand the book or not. Some have even accused the author, William Paul Young, of teaching New Age theology! Well! You decide for yourself.

I have read the book twice and written my own study guide for my discipleship class because of the value of the book for me. I found a video clip on YouTube of an interview between Nicky Gumbel (of “The Alpha Course” fame) and Paul Young which has greatly enriched my understanding of the book.

I have no intention of promoting The Shack in this blog. However, in the first discussion session I had with my discipleship group, we unpacked a concept which occurs near the beginning of the story. The character who represents Jesus in the book responds to the main character, Mack, when Mack decides that he ought to see Papa (God) in the kitchen. (Perhaps this is a nudge for you to read the book to get the details of the story).

“So now what am I supposed to do?” (Mack asked Jesus).

Jesus replied in the following words, “You’re not supposed to do anything. You’re free to do whatever you like.” Jesus paused and then continued, trying to help by giving Mack a few suggestions. “I am working on a wood project in the shed; Sarayu is in the garden; or you could go fishing, canoeing, or go in and talk to Papa.”

“Well, I sort of feel obligated to go in and talk to him, uh, her.”

“Oh,” now Jesus was serious. “Don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points around here. Go because it’s what you want to do.”

Ignore the story for the moment. What Jesus highlighted in His reply was that our relationship with God is not based on obligation but on the free will God has given us, an irrevocable gift which He honours and which should govern the way we relate to Him.

If you think about it seriously, you must ask yourself how much of the way you relate to the Father is out of a sense of obligation to Him. Were you, like I was, taught to “say your prayers”, read the Bible, go to church, and share your faith as part of your “duty” to God as a believer? The problem then becomes one of guilt. What if you are so tired when you kneel to pray at night that you fall asleep instead of “talking to God” or reading the Bible?

What makes fellowship with God different from the way we relate to people? Imagine a friendship conducted on the basis of obligation. There would be no spontaneity, no freedom to be yourself, and no expression of real love. It would be a cast of “You did this for me; now I must do that for you.” Yet, somehow, the sense of obligation creeps into our relationship with the Father. How pleased do you think He is with us when our response to Him is a heartless series of actions because we feel we ought to?

How does that measure up to Jesus’ interaction with the Father. As I read through the gospels, I get the sense that Jesus was absolutely passionate about the Father. He could not get enough of Him, He spent as much time with Him as He could, even to forfeiting sleep to get some “alone time” with Him, and doing everything, even submitting Himself to crucifixion out of love for the Father. Imagine Jesus woodenly praying, reading the Bible etc., because He felt obliged to and guilty if He didn’t! We don’t relate to our dads that way.

What if, instead, we feel so free with our Father that we have no guilt if we oversleep and miss out on our prayer time, or fail in some way to carry out our self-imposed religious rituals? Of course, this is not an invitation to neglect every opportunity to strengthen our bonds with the Father, but it does release us from the terrible attitude that we must, and if we don’t, God will be disappointed with us and get us back in some way.

Jesus told His disciples, on the eve of His departure,

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

Here’s a paraphrase which will help you to understand His heart.

If you love me, you will value what I value so much that you will never do anything to break my heart.

Wow! Imagine loving Jesus so passionately that everything we do would bring joy to Him. Not only that but loving Him so much that we include Him in everything we do. No rituals, not rules, no religion, no obligation – just fellowship and companionship all through the day.

Jesus certainly didn’t come to set up another religion. He came to show us the Father and to take us to the Father.

Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14: 5-6).

Why not shed the foolish notion that God will be disappointed with you if you do not do this, that or the other? Why not embrace the truth that He is your Abba – Daddy; that He loves you and that He delights in you, and just love Him and live in the joy and freedom of His love for you and – just be yourself?

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on  or order directly from the publisher at

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from or in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.


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