“If you love me, keep my commands.”
These seven words from Jesus present to us a lifelong challenge. In seven words he gives us a simple, clear, and direct instruction, but somehow we’ve learned to convolute it. In these seven words Jesus puts to rest the idea that one can live and sin and still claim to love him. He completely nullifies the belief that living outside of Jesus’ commands is somehow acceptable because of grace and forgiveness.
The message of Christ is grace and forgiveness, to be sure, but not for those living apart from him. The mercy and redemption that Christ offers comes only through true belief in him and his sacrifice. To believe in him is to love him. To love him is to obey him.
I know that the language of “commands” and “obey” evoke more of a master and servant relationship than a loving relationship, but don’t let that mislead you. Think of it like a father and a child. As a child grows up being nurtured, provided for, and instructed by their father, they learn to love, trust, and obey him. They trust him because they love him. They obey him because they trust him. And though children all have their disobedient streaks, overall, a child will listen to their parents over anyone else.
That is the love and obedience that Christ calls us to. It’s not slavery, it’s trust. It’s not a strict set of rules, it’s an understanding that he wants the very best for our lives and our eternal souls, and that by following him we are acting in our own best interest as well.
There’s so much confusion and misinformation surrounding the concept of obedience, grace, and forgiveness. Phrases like “Jesus doesn’t judge me, so why should you?” are rampant. Jesus does say that he came not to judge the world but to save it. But that’s not an excuse to live in sin, that it’s ok with him to live a sinful life. It isn’t. It’s what he came to save you from. The mark of your salvation is your desire and willful effort to live according to his commands. He tells us this not to make us think we have to be perfect, but to show us that repentance requires change. Belief in him requires a true love for him and a desire to trust his will for our lives.
If we love him, we’ll obey him. It’s just that simple.
I love you. I know that I don’t love you perfectly as you love me, but I want to love you more perfectly. Help me to live according to your commands and to do so out of trust and love for you.
In Jesus’ Name,