Words We Prefer Not to Hear: “Obey” December 18 2015

When our older son, Stuart, was about two years old, we had been teaching him that the way to demonstrate that you love God is to obey (or keep) His commandments.  One day he was sitting on the floor coloring a picture and Shashi was nearby washing dishes.  Stuart asked her “Mommy, could you draw me a kitty?”  She replied “I’ll be glad to draw you a kitty, but I need to finish washing the dishes first.”  Five minutes later: “Mommy, can you draw me a kitty?”  She told Stuart “just give me a few more minutes and I’ll be happy to draw you a kitty.”  A couple of minutes later:  “Mommy,do you love me? Shashi stopped washing dishes, picked up our son, cuddled him and said “I love you so much!” To which Stuart said “Then obey me. Draw me a kitty!” Stuart had gotten the point. He just twisted it a bit.

In society today, the word “obey” is often maligned.  It is sometimes made to sound militaristic or legalistic.  Certainly, the word can be used that way.  Some leaders try to lead by fear and intimidation.  Some parents even do that to their children, using the words “Because I said so,” as though they are the ultimate authority.  But God’s call to obedience is anything but by fear or force.  

I John 4:7-5:3 is an amazing passage about God’s love and how it relates to our obedience.  This section ends with a statement of hope in I John 5:3: “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

The verses leading up to this summation of the passage are all about God’s demonstration of love toward us.  I John 4 is actually a wonderful Christmas passage as well, as in verse 9: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”  Verse 10: “… He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins.”  Christmas is all about the sending of the Savior to the world.  

One of the reasons that God’s commandments are not burdensome is that they are a very small demonstration of love compared to the love He has shown to us.  It is amazing that we can have a relationship with the God of the universe and that He demonstrated His love for us “while we were yet sinners.”  No matter how difficult life can be (and it can be extremely difficult at times), we can have God’s supernatural peace even if the world is falling apart around us.  

Now lets bring this back to the word “obey.” In John 14:15,  Jesus Himself said “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” The desire to demonstrate our love through obedience is out of the motivation for love expressed in I John 4:11 - “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  In other words, how could we not love one another after what God has done to show His love for us?  It is like the slave in the parable in Matthew 18:22-35 who begged that his enormous debt be forgiven by his master.  After the slave’s debt was forgiven by the master, the slave then went to his fellow slave and demanded that he pay back his debt, which was insignificant by comparison.    By our obedience to God’s commandments  (which are not burdensome in light of the love He has shown to us) we demonstrate our love for Him and others out of deep gratitude.  Obedience is not out of legalistic obligation or fear, but out of wanting to love God in return.  In addition, God even provides the ability and strength to do so through the Holy Spirit.

If a random person just gave us a new car for no reason, with no strings attached (like the car with the big bow on it in the Christmas commercials), most of us would have a deep sense of gratitude and might be wondering “why me?”  Just multiply that by a gazillion, and we have something approaching God’s grace and mercy toward us.  Our reaction to that should also be “why me?” May we remember this and may God help us to respond in love and obedience this season and throughout the year.  God bless you as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  

Note:  The BCF blog will be taking a vacation on Christmas Day and New Years Day.  See you in 2016!

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Steve Smith