Obeying God Doesn’t Prove our Love

November 3, 2013

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“When we obey, we prove we love God.”

This kind of thinking is normal among us. In all man-made, man-centered religions; the emphasis is on obedience. Follow these rules or practices and maybe “the God” will bless you. Climb the ladder and hope you can reach the standard.

In the same way this line of thought reflects in our parenting.

We often reward good behavior with statements like:

  • “Do your chores and you get an allowance.”
  • “Get good grades and we will take you for dinner.”
  • “If you are good, you will get a treat.”

It is easy to slip into this mindset with God.

My 6th Grade Teacher:  Mrs Grace
* Follow the rules.
* Obey so that you will be blessed.

Obviously obedience is a good thing. And it is true there are blessings when you do things God’s way. After all, He made the planet and when we do it His way, it works.

As humans though, we tend to put the focus on ourselves. It’s normal and natural. In fact, this idea roots itself in our inherent selfishness. We get excited when we act opposite of the norm, noting the few times we actually succeed at being others centered or the moments when we stop the world from revolving around ourselves.

If we have our eyes on obedience, we are looking at ourselves.
If we have our eyes on love, we are lifting our heads and looking up.

Jesus pointed out in the gospel of John when he said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” The emphasis is on love first, the actions of keeping and obeying follows the love.”

Jesus did not say:

  • “Obey me to show me you love me.”
  • “Prove your commitment through your obedience.”
  • “Keep the rules, you’ll get the reward.”

Jesus was not focused on our behavior, he was focused on our hearts.

As a Dad, my life would be much, easier if my kids obeyed me. If they would just do what I say, life would be grand. But if I am honest, I want something much more than obedience or modified behavior. I want their hearts.

All of us can conform to a pattern of behavior for a season. True heart change does not come from systems, methods, or rule keeping. Growth comes from love.

My kids might obey me, but a better question is do they know I love them? Do I have their hearts?

Obeying God does not lead to love. Loving God results in obedience.

When you love someone you want to honor them and respect them. When you know they love you, it is easier to trust that their advice and wisdom is given with your best interests in mind.

Andy Stanley recently said that “God’s commands are not conditions for a relationship, but a confirmation of a relationship.”

Tim Keller echoes a similar thought when he says, “Religion is I obey and therefore I am accepted. Relationship says I am accepted and therefore I obey.”

Is our primary focus on obedience, or on love?

Let me conclude with a reminder from Hebrews 12:1-2. We are to “…lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,… ”

Obedience is a result of love, not a means of proving it.

As we run, our eyes are on Jesus, and not ourselves.

Photo By Don O'Brien

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God