I don't think I need to discuss how the story of Adam and Eve represents the consequences of failing to obey God, so I'll start with one of my favorite examples of obedience in the Bible: the story of Abraham.
The Lord said to Abram: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from you father's house to a land that I will show you"... Abram went as the Lord directed him. (Genesis 12:1, 4)
Have you ever picked up and moved away from your family, your friends, your community? Last summer, I did just that, I moved from my home in Colorado, from my parents and grandparents, my brother, my friend, my parish, from all that I knew in order to marry my husband and be with him. It was difficult. It is still difficult. But when I miss my family, I can book a plane flight and go visit. And if I can't wait to visit, I can pick up the phone and talk to my mom, email my dad, text message my brother. I send cards and letters to my grandparents. I go on facebook to keep up with my friends. I think you get the point. When Abram and Sarai left their land, they truly left it. They knew they would most likely never return. God did not tell them where they were going. They had to trust Him, follow His commands. And so they did, they obeyed.
How many times does God ask small things of me, and yet I am unwilling to obey? He asks Abram to make a life-changing move and Abram obeys. But I can't even devote an extra five minutes to prayer? Either I'm short-changing myself (and God) with my disobedience or Abram was superhuman (if you know more about Abram, you know that he wasn't perfect, so most likely the fault is mine). Not only do I not obey God, I try to shut him out (as if ignoring Him was any better than purposefully disobeying). God asks me to listen to His commands and I purposefully close my ears because I don't want to take the risk that He'll ask me to do something I don't already want to do myself. I'd like to think I'm the only one who does this, but I've seen this to be pretty endemic to our society.
You may say, "But wait, you forgot to mention that God told Abram that he would reward him greatly if he picked up and moved" Well, that's true:
"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curst you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (Genesis 12:2-3)
Even though the promise came from God, believing this took great courage. Abram was old and Sarai was barren. I recently read the book Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler, in which Feiler notes that Abram had no reason to trust God. Why you might ask? Well, our faith recognizes Abram as the first monotheist; therefore, even theconcept, much less the existence, of a single, all-powerful, steadfast God would have been unfamiliar to him, as it was to the generations before him. He took a great leap of faith in trusting this untested God.
We don't have that excuse, the Lord's existence has been established for us and if we proclaim to be a Christian (or a Jew or Muslim for that matter), we acknowledge that there is one God, that He is all-powerful, and that He fulfills his promises. As for the promises He offered to Abram in return for his obedience, hasn't God also offered to give us bountiful rewards if we follow his commands as well? Namely, ETERNAL LIFE?
Technically, we shouldn't even need a reward (or as I like to think of it, a bribe) to follow God's commands, but I believe that He realizes our weaknesses in our fallen state and sent Jesus and the prophets to remind us that the sacrifices we make in doing His bidding are not in vain. He also sent them to us as role models, and we would be wise to follow their lead. As for me, I'm going to start by reminding myself of Abram's obedience when I'm filling willful (which for me just might be all the time...I chose obedience as my word of the year for a reason!).
Unsure of where to start my biblical exploration of obedience, I searched for "obedience" in my trusty Where To Find It In The Bible, which expertly directed me to this passage. This is one of very few religious books I can't live without it. If you don't have one, get one!