I would bet that obedience is everyone's least favorite word, and in this country it's a bit of a dirty word. I remember an episode of The Office where Jim and Pam are creating a resume for Dwight. One of the assets listed on paper was "a dog-like obedience to authority". It's hard not to think of a dog when someone says that particular word.
As a Catholic I'm having to learn to see obedience in a different way: my will needs to be in submission to the Church. I know that many Protestants would be horrified by what I just wrote because the basis of Protestantism is sola scriptura, and they believe that each Christian must read and decipher the Bible for him or herself and that truth can be obtained by reading Scripture apart from tradition. I used to believe the same thing.
When I was first discovering Christianity, I was reading the Bible and searching for a Church that interpreted the Bible the same way as I did. I went to several different churches, and saw that each believed different things. I went to an "Apostolic" Pentecostal church for a while which held radical views about baptism. This church taught that the only way a Christian could be saved was if he was baptized with the words "in the name of Jesus" (as opposed to "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"), and come up from the water speaking in tongues. After reading his explanation of why his view was true, I was convinced that this was the case. His reasoning was solid, intelligent. It made perfect sense! Until I went to the Baptist Church down the road and the pastor there was teaching something totally and completely different. And guess what? His reasoning was solid and intelligent as well. Who could I trust? I was afraid that I would make the wrong decision and be condemned by God.
The answer to this dilemma came in the most unlikely of places: I started listening to Catholic radio (89.7 FM for anyone in the San Antonio area!) and learned about Peter the apostle as the first Pope and Apostolic succession.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18The Catholic Church teaches that this verse establishes the Catholic Church, and proves that Church will be guided by Christ throughout time. Scripture also tells us that the Church, not the Bible is the "pillar and bulwark of Truth" (1 Timothy 3:15)! Without a visible Church sustained throughout the ages with the authority to interpret Scripture and teach on issues of morality, this could never be so because Truth would always be shifty and slippery and moldable into whatever shape someone would need to fit their own agenda. This type of "truth" was the unstable foundation which my early paganism was founded upon: that I am my own moral authority free to incorporate just whatever pleased me into my worldview. This type of thing only led me to making some poor choices and mental/emotional isolation. There was no community, only myself. It was a heavy burden. I never in a million years would have thought that obedience to a higher authority would be a liberation! It is beautiful, exhilarating, often inconvenient, but liberating.
Someone might wonder why I would not be Catholic, but follow my own conscience on certain moral issues. The answer is because when I made the decision to join the Catholic Church, I professed publicly that I believe in everything the Church teaches. Every time I take communion it's an acknowledgement that I am unified with the Body of Christ throughout the world. To disobey by saying that the Church is wrong on this or that issue, but still repeat the Creed and receive communion every week would be hypocritical. If I were to knowingly decide that my personal conscience freed me from following a teaching of the Church, this would be merely an attempt to decide good and evil for myself and place myself above the authority of Jesus himself.