“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15
As a parent and teacher, I keep this statement from Jesus in my back pocket for that occasion when someone asks a question about the law. It and the verses that follow are Jesus’ explanation of how He came to fulfill, not abolish, the law. It is my counterargument to all of those who teach “5 Steps to a Better ______.” We don’t follow Christ’s commands because we should or because we will be “blessed” when we do. We follow Christ’s commands because we have a deep and profound admiration and a growing love for Him and we want nothing more than to please Him.
Fortunately for us, Jesus didn't stop at verse 15. In fact, if you only see that sentence, it would be easy to see Him as a nagging parent or a whiny spouse. “Well … if you LOVED me, you would clean your room.” or “If you LOVED me, you would help me clean up around here.” But that’s not the tone. He knows that our love for Him will manifest itself in a desire to obey and He wants to help. Specifically, He’s sending a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but He assures us that though He is leaving, it is only temporary. We know that when we see Him again, it will be confirmation that we are His just like He is the Father’s.
The gift of the Spirit and the assurance of eternal life free us to obey. In Romans 6, Paul describes believers as “set free from sin, having become slaves of righteousness.” (v. 18) That includes sins of self-doubt, putting others before God, and unbelief. When we are freed from sin, we are free to live lives of obedience, regardless of the temporal outcomes.
We are free to obey the Great Commission.
When we view Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples” in light of John 14:15, we are freed from the weight of expectation. We are freed from disappointment if all of our going and making does not produce as much as we hoped. We can continue to faithfully obey because we love Christ, not because we have an artificial quota to fill. Yes, we are overjoyed when our churches grow and people are getting baptized. But we are equally joyful when we disciple a smaller group. And regardless of our view on election, we share the Gospel boldly wherever we go because Jesus commands it.
We are free to love one another.
It’s easy to love those who love us. Even the tax collectors do it. But how do you love the kid who is bullying your 12-year-old? Or the co-worker who thinks you’re a bigot because of your traditional view of marriage? Or the spouse who stopped trying years ago? We love them because we love Jesus and He commanded it. We love with no expectation of reciprocation from the other person because it isn’t their love you’re seeking. We are free to love with the help of the Spirit regardless of the response because of the promised return of Christ.
We are free to love God.
We can be unashamed of our love of God in a world where our love is becoming more marginalized every day. At a time when the “Moral Majority” is becoming a shrinking minority. As the definition of tolerance continues to change, we can love God while being called intolerant. We can love Him with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength because that is what we live for. We love God because, in Christ, He first loved us.