You Don’t Have to Love Me!
You don’t have to love me! Can you imagine God telling people that? Yet, that is really what is at the heart of the gospel. Under the Old Covenant, man was required to love God and their neighbor 24/7. Yet no one could!
Writing to the believers in Rome, Paul explains to them in Romans 5:20 that the purpose of the Law was to bring out sin in man. So, God gave them the Law. One of those laws became known as the “greatest commandment.” It said that people were to love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength and their neighbors as themselves. No one except Jesus ever fulfilled that commandment. Jesus gives us great insight into why and how He was able to fulfill that commandment, as well as all the others.
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:9–10).
Jesus was able to keep His Father’s commandments because His heart was established in how much He was loved by His Father. Jesus didn’t keep His Father’s commandments to earn His Father’s love. Rather, He kept them because of His Father’s love for Him. Sadly, many people today have been wrongly taught about God’s love. As a result, they are striving and working to earn God’s love based on their performances. This is exactly what the Pharisees believed, but obviously, Jesus was not impressed. He said their father was the Devil.
A strategy Satan works through all false religions is to convince people to work for God’s love, acceptance, blessings, and salvation. Like the carrot on a stick dangling in front of a donkey, they strive to do everything possible to just get a taste of the carrot but never do because it stays just out of reach. The desire to taste the carrot moves the donkey forward just as the desire to feel God’s love and acceptance motivates the works minded follower. At the end of the day, the donkey will get to eat a dusty dried out carrot, but those working for God’s love will be left feeling empty and unfulfilled, only to try harder the next day.
Many people get confused by this passage in John because they are unable to differentiate whose commandments are whose. This is a key point in understanding the following passage:
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
The Law is the commandments given to Moses by God, but the commandments given by Jesus are full of grace and truth. Grace is God’s ability working in you, and the truth is the freedom that comes from receiving His grace by faith. Grace equals truth, which is freedom. The truth sets you free because grace can’t be earned or worked for. So it is the truth, filled with grace that Jesus gave His disciples.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:11–12).
What is this joy Jesus said He had that He desires would REMAIN in them? It was the fact that Jesus knew and believed His Father loved Him. Nothing in the world can fill you with such joy as knowing that God loves you. To REMAIN in that joy, you must never forget that God loves you!
So now, Jesus gives us “His” commandment, which we see is very different from the commandments given by His Father to Moses. Jesus says,“This is my commandment that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
Let’s contrast this commandment with the one identified as the “greatest of them all” in the Old Covenant:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27).
Do you see the huge difference between each commandment? In the Old Covenant Law, we see that man was required to love God and his neighbor. However, in this new commandment Jesus has given us, we see that first, we are to believe that He loves us. Then, from that position of faith, we are to love others as He has loved us. This is the heart of the gospel, and it encompasses what grace and truth are all about. Jesus was a mirror reflection of God’s heart of love for humanity. God gave the Law to show people two essential truths:
1. What love looked like
2. That you are unable to live this way without knowing God’s love for you
The purpose of the Law was to show them that apart from God there was no life, just existence. On the other hand, there is the abundant life of righteousness, peace, and joy in Him.
Most assume Jesus is teaching that if you keep the commandments, God will love you, and to abide in God’s love, you must obey the Law. To quote a famous sarcastic saying from Dr. Phil, “How is that working out for you?”
The truth is that keeping the Law won’t cause God to love you because His love for people has never ever been based on their performances. It is based totally on the fact that God is love.
Paul teaches in Romans 5:8, that God commended His love for us when we were still sinners. So, if God loved you before you even knew He existed and while you were a sinner, He certainly isn’t going to stop loving you when you do sin. Stop thinking that your sins or past sins are far more powerful than His love for you! The Prodigal Son’s father ran to his sinful son, embraced, and kissed him in spite of the fact he had deeply hurt his father’s heart by abandoning him. The Prodigal was absolutely convinced that his father and the God they served could not forgive his sins because they were so many and so vile. Yet, that is exactly what transpired; his father did forgive him and totally restored him to sonship. Notice, the father didn’t demand that his son prove his love to him first before he would love him. It was the father who ran to his son, loved, and accepted him as he was.
The father’s love didn’t leave the Prodigal in the same condition it found him. Just hours later, this son, who thought his father would never forgive him, was dressed in a new robe and shoes, wearing a new ring and dancing with his father. In the same way, God’s love transforms a sinner into a child of God; they dance and rejoice together.
Jesus is teaching His disciples that the reason He is able to keep His Father’s commandments is because He knows His Father’s love for Him. We should follow Jesus’s example and allow our hearts to rest in how much the Father loves us.
~ Ed Elliott
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