"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
- John 14:15 (ESV)
My old neighbor had a dog that drove me nuts. Barked all the time. All the time. Of course, my neighbors were almost deaf so they had no idea the dog was barking. That’s quite fun when you have small children trying to sleep.
That dog was mean, too. Candidly, I was counting the days until he died. And then, one day, the dog got out of my neighbors’ yard. I began praying for a car to hit it. Just kidding, but you get my point - no love lost, no concern shed. They were panicked. They loved that dog, for reasons that I will never understand. I saw the grief and worry on their faces. And then suddenly, I did the unthinkable. I got off my lazy butt and started to go look for the dog! I tried to bring it home, and - amazingly - I did. They were happy, and because they were happy, I was happy. In a most unexpected way, love for them became love for what they loved.
Have you ever noticed that kind of transformation in your affections? You start to love something because someone you love loves it?
Come to think of it, I don’t think that I was as huge a Pittsburgh Steelers fan until I married a Steelers fan. I don’t think I cared much about high school theater until one of my kids grew to love it and got really good at it. I don’t know much about EDM, but now listen to it on Spotify because another child loves it. I’m not a computer guru, but I’m learning a lot from sharing the geeky passion of a son we now affectionately refer to as “Command Prompt.” I never paid much attention to Elmer’s Glue until my daughter started making slime out of it for fun with her friends. Now I buy Fig Newtons every time I go shopping because my dog loves them. The loves of my loves are slowly becoming my loves.
The same thing happens in our relationship with God. As we grow to love God, we grow to love what God loves. I think Jesus was pointing to this a bit when he said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15).
I used to read that verse as a threatening guilt-trip of sorts, like Jesus was saying, “If you really love me, you’ll quit screwing up.” When I read it that way, it made me feel helpless. After all, I screw up all the time.
Thankfully, a pastor shared with me that this verse wasn’t meant simply as an imperative - something we must do (and, of course, we should obey God…he’s God!). More so, Jesus offered it as an indicative - something we will do. In other words, Jesus said that if we truly love God, we’ll grow to love what God loves. Because of our new nature, born of God’s Spirit, this growth will be natural. Our gradually renewed affections will gradually renew our attitudes and actions.
Sometimes, we think that victory over sin and growth in obedience comes primarily by focusing on our sins - finally getting serious about them, looking them square in the eye, and working hard to overcome them. The problem is that focusing on our sins is really just another way of looking to ourselves and our efforts for deliverance. The answer is not focusing primarily on our sins, but on our Savior. As we fall in deeper love with him, we fall out of love with what is not of him. Increasingly, he becomes our source of ultimate joy and delight; lesser sources lose their allure.
Child of God: As you return the warm embrace of Jesus, clinging more and more to him, you will slowly loosen your grip on everything not of him. As you grow in love for him, you will grow to love what he loves more and more.
You're loved. Don't forget it.
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