Loving the Creator and His Creatures

There is no dichotomy between love and obedience to God’s commands.  “Commandment” is not a dirty word.  Examine the following two statements of Jesus.  I am totally convinced that these two statements are in perfect harmony and that Jesus knew what He was saying on both occasions.

Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV 37 … You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus also said:

John 14:15 NKJV If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Let me tell you a story.  There was a certain medical doctor.  Upon completion of medical school, he took the Hippocratic Oath.  Among other things, he swore:  “…I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required…” (Wikipedia, Hippocratic Oath, modern version).  In other words, he would become a healer.

Now, let me ask you a question.  How would he know how to exercise his mission as a healer?  Would he not know because of his training?  Of course he would.  And what was his training?  Was it not how to identify various symptoms of disease and which procedures to use to most effectively treat them?  I know that’s pretty simplified, but isn’t that basically it?

In the above illustration, the healing is the love and the procedures are the commandments.  The doctor must follow accepted medical protocol to heal his patient.  The Christian must obey the commandments of God to love God and love his neighbor.

You see, God’s commandments teach us how to love.  I really want to love God because He is so good to me.  Well, how do I do that?  I love God by keeping His commandments.  At least, that’s what Jesus said.

Allow me to offer a text from the rather challenging chapter of Romans 7:

Romans 7:7 NKJV … I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”

Surely at least part of what Paul is saying is that he would not have fully understood that covetousness was wrong unless God had pointed that out for him in the Law of Moses.  That is, he would not have fully understood that he could not love God while entertaining covetous thoughts.

Allow Peter to speak:

1 Peter 1:13-15 NKJV 13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

Verse 14 refers to the necessity of obedience.  Is this legalism?  Is this a negation of God’s grace?  Of course not.  Peter could have just as easily said, “as loving children.”  Obedience is love carried out.  An argument could be made that there is no faith without works.  It could also be said that there is no love without obedience, or that by obedience, love is made perfect (compare James 2:22 NKJV Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?).

Do you want to love God and your neighbor?  Do you want to know how to do it?  Check out the beatitudes in Matthew 5.1-12 and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22-23.  These are good starter lists.

There is no love without obedience.  The person who wants to emphasize obedience to God’s commands in his life is not a legalist.  He’s a lover.

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