John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Do you love God? Do you keep His commandments?
Those two questions are synonymous for the Christian, especially when we understand that love and obedience go hand in hand; and not only obedience but obedience grounded in love.
Christ doesn’t say if you obey Me you will love Me. Rather, He states if you love Me you will keep My commandments.
Many people obey whom they do not love, so we must not take this obedience Christ commands as the same type or kind of begrudging obedience labor union workers give to their boss, or citizens do under totalitarian rule. Theirs is not the obedience Christ has in mind because it is not an obedience from the heart.
One of the most fascinating things about the Christian walk is how God commands our very emotions.
We read the command “Rejoice always,” and think to ourselves, “always, even in the midst of heartache and suffering?”
What does James say? “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
If I am, to be honest, which I pray I am, I struggled – and still do struggle – with this command. I don’t always want to rejoice. I don’t always want to obey. Sometimes I would rather grumble and complain rather than trust and obey. And sometimes when I do obey, I don’t do it from a grateful, thankful heart. But Begrudging servitude of a peasant to a king is not what we are called to perform.
Moses, when he spoke of the curses that will come upon Israel when they disobeyed, said that they will be cursed because they did not serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart (Deuteronomy 28:47). Our calling reaches higher and delves deeper than any earthly command. God commands our heart and will have nothing less.
So, how do I love the Lord through obedience?
We already know Christ does not command our begrudging obedience, so an obedience grounded in love goes deeper than our actions but not less than our actions.
To use an imperfect example: if I told my parents I loved them while under their house, but never did the required chores, never helped mom carry the groceries in, never helped dad with yard work, and never wanted to spend any time with them, any observant person would tell me that my actions betrayed my words.
And if I did obey, yet gave them sneering looks behind their back while taking out the trash, constantly complained to friends about them, and grumbled incessantly when called to do my chores, any observant person would tell me the same thing.
Actions prove or disprove words. And not simply if we obey; for God penetrates the heart. He loves a joyful giver, we are told. The poor woman gave more than all the rich men of Jerusalem, we are also told.
True obedience to the Father, then, is an obedience borne from a love for God. This keeps us from blind legalism and simple ritualism. This love for God drives us to obey God.
An important note: this is not a self-determined will to love and obey. We can’t make ourselves love Him and keep our love for God to our dying days. God’s love rooted in us, and the love we have for Him is nothing less than a result of the love He gave to us. John tells us “We love because He first loved us.”
That’s the beauty of Christ’s command. He gave what He commanded! Considering we cannot obey God if we do not love God, and to obey God springs forth from a heart that loves Him, Christ has given us all we need.
If I may use a syllogism to further my point:
Love requires obedience.
Christians love Christ.
Christians obey Christ’s commands.
One must flow from the other. Obedience flows from a heart that loves Christ. It can come from none other.
The question then remains: do you love God? And if you say you do, do you obey Christ?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ commands our emotional allegiance, and He will have nothing less. May we consider how gracious a God we serve who has caused our hearts to love Him. May we give thanks and sing praise, and may our hearts overflow as a spring of water that wells up to eternal life as we joyfully obey His commandments because we love Him.