“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)
Smarter men than I have wrangled long with this idea, but the words strike a chord of soundness despite their strange source.
A long obedience in the same direction…
When we consider these words through the lens of a follower of Jesus, it seems like the underscore of Jesus’ call to “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Luke 9.23) He doesn’t just call us to embrace the hope of the gospel and in earnest obedience plunge into the waters of baptism only to come up and go on about life with a great cosmic advisor on speed dial when the sticky spots come along.
No, that thing to which we are called is a long obedience in the same direction—His direction. It is to follow Him every step of the way, to take the next step in obedience and the next and the next and the next and the next.
But every journey starts somewhere. It start at the place we find ourselves when invited to follow. It starts when He calls us to step out of what is and into the vast possibility of His design for us.
As our team and couple hundred others prepare to step out of our ordinary, I find myself hoping, praying, longing for this to be for each one the starting place of a long obedience in the same direction. I pray this is the first (or maybe just the next) step in a lifetime of passionate, grace-energized obedience to the One who gave us life beyond the confining brokenness of this world.
I know that not every follower of Jesus is called to go to Detroit this weekend or any other particular city at a particular time. But we are called to follow Him. We are called to follow Him in doing things like He did—putting love into action. We are called to follow Him in expressing what he expressed—mercy and grace and hope. We are called to follow Him continually—walking daily after His guiding voice, clinging to His presence, leaning hard upon Him.
I think that’s how He formed the words recorded by the prophet Micah:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8)
To what does He call us?
As Nietzsche put it, “the essential thing,” the central calling for us all, “is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction.” This long obedience begins here and now.
What step of obedience is He whispering into the ear of your heart today?
Will this be your starting place of a long obedience in the same direction?
Isn’t it really as simple as the beautiful old hymn put it?