“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
A few years ago, I heard Russ Johnson say that this is a promise not a demand. How strange, right? Many of teachers have used this in an opposite way to convict listeners into obedience. Obedience is emphasized as a way of proving that you love Jesus. Focus on obedience in order to prove your love.
Have you heard this before?
Love and Desire
I’ve spent a good deal of time navigating the role of desire (wants) in following Jesus thus far on my blog. Mainly because it has become so central to my own discipleship and discipling of others. The most important question we can ask is, “What do you want?”
Jesus ask this question over and over in a number of ways with his disciples (e.f. John 1:38, Mark 10:36, John 21:15). Helping them name and own what they wanted was a normative practice.
Returning to this verse, something recently stood out to me. For Jesus, love wasn’t feel good feelings or the joy you feel when being with people that made life easy. It was an intentional willingness to be with and for another person. Love was a choice. It’s something we want to do. Love cannot be coerced. Even more, love does not coerce.
Jesus didn’t say this at the beginning of his ministry with them. It was at the end. He had spent 3 years doing the necessary scaffolding for this statement to make sense. No amount of guilt, shame, or fear creates the kind of person who can walk in the way of Jesus in any situation. Only a heart that has been formed in his love.
Priority of the Heart
Jesus promises that those who love him will obey him. We spend a great deal trying to get Christians to behave. And without creating a dichotomy, our priority must be to engage the heart; to engage what we actually want. Our aim in discipleship isn’t moral perfection or simply compliance but love.
If we are to become the kinds of people who can follow and walk in the way of Jesus (keep his commandments), we must get real about what we really want and submit them to Jesus, to hear good news from him and have those desires reordered.
If you love me, Jesus ask, assumes you’ve been doing the necessary work of owning and naming what you actually want in relationship with him and others.
So, what do you want? Or in the words of YG, “Who do you love?”