When I wanted to propose to my wife, I first sought the blessing of her father. This was both a nerve-wracking and exciting experience for me. I was so eager that I let my intentions slip to my future mother-in-law. She seemed excited, too, which only bolstered my determination. I needed to plan my opportunity. As it turned out my wife’s father was in the midst of a home project. He asked me to help him on a Saturday morning, and I was more than happy to oblige. I thought that a day of work would provide an ideal opportunity for me to ask for his blessing on my future plans with his daughter.
The work began that Saturday and I was not prepared for the amount of work I was given. The project called for concrete, and a lot of it. Someone needed to open each bag of 80lb concrete, mix it with water, and then wheelbarrow it to the job sight. I was not surprised that my wife’s father asked me to grab the first couple bags to mix and transport. However, I was surprised he asked me to grab the next 38 bags. My muscles were burning. The work was arduous. I was sweaty and tired. Thankfully, the work burned off a lot of the nerves I had about asking his blessing. Unfortunately, it did not provide very many opportunities for me to broach the subject. After all, I spent all day talking to concrete and no one else.
Finally the work was done. I was resolute, yet completely exhausted. As I approached him, I summoned my courage, but before I could ask the question he said, “I hear you have something to ask me.” My wife’s mother had spilled the beans earlier and he knew what I was going to ask him. He had planned to test my resolve and willingness to work.
Looking back on that day I can testify that the work was difficult. It was exhausting. Yet, it was a complete joy. In a sense, my work was fueled by my love for my wife. My experience oddly reminds me of Jacob’s in Genesis. Whenever the Bible talks about Jacob and his love for Rachel, it seems clear he was head-over-heels for her. When he first laid eyes on her, he moved a massive stone by himself that covered the mouth of a well (Genesis 29:10). This is an effective strategy of a young, smitten man. He was able to show off his strength while simultaneously watering her flocks and getting rid of the other shepherds. After all, who needs competition?
Jacob’s love for Rachel is obvious. Later, when Jacob agreed to work for Rachel’s father for seven years in order to marry her, we are told the days “…seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her”(Genesis 29:20). In his mind, Jacob’s love for Rachel transformed years of hard work into a few days of enthusiastic anticipation. Genuine love transforms the motive and impression of work. It doesn’t decrease its difficulty, only its drudgery. Gospel ministry is driven by gospel love. Our service to Christ should never be divorced from a constant reminder of our love for Him.
Jacob’s love for Rachel and my love for my wife both give evidence that true love makes obedience a joy-filled pleasure. Puritan John Owen wrote, “Love gives joy and delight in obedience.” If you love someone, serving him or her is not a burden, but a joy. There is great liberty in this type of love. Jacob was not forced to work seven years for Rachel. It was his choice, birthed out of his love for her. I was not forced to mix concrete for my father-in-law, but my love for my then girlfriend made the work easy. Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Our obedience to Jesus should never feel forced or begrudging; it should flow from the delight of experiencing his perfect love for us. As we comprehend his love for us, we grow in our love for him, which produces sincere and loving obedience.
Biblical love is fearless. Our love for Jesus, our spouse, our children, church, and neighbors should emanate from a place of security. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Fear is the product of uncertainty. We will be afraid if we are convinced that our obedience will be judged and we will face condemnation for our failures. But fear is evicted from our souls by the love of Jesus. He bore the wrath of the Father in our place and for our joy. We can love Jesus and others with our lives and our obedience because the Savior has loved us perfectly, and therefore given us security. We have been loved perfectly; therefore we do not fear judgment. Our relationship with God has been established in a covenant in which God pledges His love to us. When we love others as Christ loved us, we provide security and comfort to those we extend our love to. They do not have not to fear us, but can rest in our love.
The Christian’s Daily Practice
Because this is true, followers of Jesus must make it a habit to stoke the flames of our love for Christ each day. How can we do this?
- Meditate on the gospel. This advice never grows old. Christians can’t hear the gospel enough. The love of Christ never grows cold and the love of Christ never gets old.
- Confess your sins. Along with meditating on the gospel, the daily habit of confessing our sins forcefully causes us to reflect on God’s love for us. We have missed the mark over and over again, and yet God’s love is steadfast and immovable for His covenant people.
- Practice Thanksgiving. The habit of thanking God for His blessings transforms our thought processes. It is hard to covet something you don’t have, while thanking God for all He has already given you. Likewise, it is hard to ignore others when we make it our habit to habitually genuflect at the goodness of our loving God.