- If you love me, you will obey what I command.
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
(John 14:15, 21, 23-24, 15:10)
These are the words of Jesus, recorded in the Gospel of John. If you read these words and took them at their face value, you would think that obedience was very, very important to Jesus. And you’d be right.
It’s not just evident in this passage from John. It’s a major theme throughout the Bible. We all know this, at least in some way. Even those who don’t profess to be believers have this idea down. We constantly hear how Christianity is all about rules and following them. That’s by no means the whole story. But when even those outside of our beliefs know this, it ought be a clue to us that obedience is important.
In fact o-b-e-y is how God spells love. At least as far as our love for him.
But this goes so much further than simply obeying the commands of scripture. I do not want to downplay obeying God’s clear commands. Not at all. There’s a reason we are given those commands. To disobey them is to place ourselves in opposition to God, and to mess up our lives. God gave us commandments to help us—sin hurts us, and it keeps us from becoming more like God, which is his ultimate goal for us.
The clear commands of scripture are good, but obeying them should be a no-brainer for the believer. Obedience goes deeper than that. It goes to the level of obeying the Spirit at any moment.
Just this week, I had a chance to exercise this kind of obedience. I was driving home from work one day, when I felt a prompting to call a friend of mine. When the Spirit speaks to me, it is usually in this fashion. It’s not a great, booming voice. It’s a small prompting, or a new thought, usually telling me to do something, perhaps something unexpected, something a bit radical, or something I’d rather not do. This friend of mine has been going through some very tough times lately, and he has been expecting either good or bad news. I was pretty sure that if he had received good news he would have told me. So I never expected this to be the most pleasant of calls. I would either hear that he’d had no news, or bad news. But I have learned that when I hear that still, small voice to obey what it says.
So I called my friend and asked him how he was doing. Immediately I could hear in his voice that things were not good. He had received word just that day of a loss, one that was devastating to him. He hadn’t even yet told his wife.
Now, I wasn’t any great fount of wisdom for my friend. I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t know why he got this bad news and not the good news he was hoping and praying for. All I could do was to tell him I loved him and that I was praying for him. We talked for about 15 minutes, and while I could not change the nature of his news, still he felt better and stronger when we were done. This was none of my doing, but simply the good grace given by a friend who cares, who understands, who shares in struggles.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t want to make that call. As I said earlier, I didn’t expect good news. But I was obedient to what the Spirit told me, and it benefitted not only my friend, but me.
Now, I am no giant when it comes to hearing the Spirit speak. I have been blessed at times with hearing from God’s spirit. It doesn’t happen nearly often enough. And I frequently wonder if I do hear the Spirit at times, and just ignore it as one of the many thoughts that come to me. You may even say that this was merely a thought from my own mind. I won’t argue the point. It’s way too subjective for a good argument anyway. I will say that when I do listen, and when I am obedient, I’ve seen many, many good things come from that obedience. The longer I live, the more convinced I become not in just the reality of the Spirit speaking to us, but that he speaks a lot more than we listen.
How many times have I passed up the opportunity to help someone, to honor God, to lift up my own soul? Far too many to count, I fear. But I know that when I am obedient, when I do show God the love he deserves, I tend to hear the Spirit easier the next time.
Obedience. It’s how God spells love.