John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever.
In this passage, there is a radically counter-cultural message presented. Jesus says obedience is the most vivid expression of love. On the other hand, culture says love is primarily to be seen as a feeling and that obedience is cold. How are we to think about this passage of scripture?
Two sides of the same coin
In John 14:15, Jesus presents love and obedience as inextricably linked. Love and obedience are presented as two sides of the same coin. God is saying to love him is to obey him. He is telling the people, don’t just honour me with your lips, while your heart is far away from me. In other words, the authenticity of our love is demonstrated by our obedience to God.
But isn’t freedom about the absence of restriction?
Many might look at this portion of scripture and recoil at what is being described. We live in a culture that celebrates freedom and this message from Jesus goes against the culture norm. It’s important to consider that the way the world looks at freedom may be wrong. The idea that freedom is about being able to do whatever you please is essentially a childish and immature way to look at issues.
If your house is burgled, you will would care about about rules, regulations and the law. We all recognise the importance of rules and regulations when we consider people who would happily violate them and hurt us in the process. We must recognise the importance of limiting some people’s absolute freedom to protect others. A world where we all have absolute freedom with no boundaries whatsoever quickly descends into anarchy.
Also, consider someone addicted to alcohol; who can’t stop themselves from picking up another bottle. Would you say they are free or are they really in bondage and a slave to their desires?
This shows you that freedom cannot simply be the ability for us to do whatever we want to do. Its more complicated and nuanced.
Why does God tell us what to do?
When God says don’t do something, he says it because he knows what’s best for us. When he speaks forcefully to us, he does it because his love for us is intense and he desperately wants our lives to be full of joy.
Let’s consider lying
In the bible, God is very serious and unequivocal about lying. He says ‘‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another (Leviticus 19:11).
If you lie, it will first corrode your reality. A life where you don’t take the truth seriously will eventually leave you in a constant state of cognitive dissonance and confusion. If everyone keeps on lying, it will eventually corrode society, leading to a culture, where we don’t trust each other, especially does in authority or positions of power. In turn, we start to undermine institutions and believe only our imaginations over the truth. Does any of this sound familiar?
Because God sees this end right from the start, he tells us forcefully, ‘do not lie’. It’s not him being bossy, instead, it’s his love and his desire to protect us.
The worst thing God could do is say ‘Do what you want’. Imagine if God left you to your own devices and didn’t instruct you in any way. Imagine who you would become without his instructions and his law. He is projecting from that person and giving you the guardrails for a life of flourishing and peace.