If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15).
This short verse packs a powerful message. It starts us on a theme we will see many times in John’s gospel as well as in his letters.
Earlier in the book of John, Christ talked about the love of God toward us. It’s most famous instance is in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world …” Then in chapter 13, Jesus turned to our love for each other with, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (Jn 13:34). Now, for the first time in the book of John, Jesus speaks of our love for Him. What does it look like to love Jesus?
It starts with obedience, To Jesus, love and obey are intrinsically linked. There really is no separating the two.
- “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
- “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me” (Jn 14:21).
- “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (Jn 14:23).
- “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (Jn 15:10).
Let’s be clear. Obedience is not a means of our salvation. Our salvation, our deliverance, our rescue is a free gift of God; a complete work of Christ who died for us. But Christ is tapping into the fact that in our new nature, the natural response to the salvation, deliverance, and rescue is love toward the Deliverer.
And empowered by the Spirit living inside us, the natural demonstration of our love for Christ is to obey His words. The reason Christ can say this so succinctly without exceptions or “what ifs” is because love, gratitude, and obedience is the expected response from those whom Christ has rescued. It should come “naturally” to us as we tap into our new heart that is soft toward God.
We often see this link in our human relationships. When I started college at a large public university, I am not embarrassed to say that my love for my parents was a big influence in obeying God. My parents in their affirming way had high expectations of me staying on the straight and narrow. I did not want to let them down. This not wanting to let them down was not based on fear or people-approval or shame. It was wholly based on how much I loved my mom and dad. As I transitioned to my adult life with my own choices, the intermediate step was obeying God because I loved my parents. By God’s grace, it grew into obeying God because I love Jesus.
Let’s never cast aside the importance of obedience because it has been misused by Old Covenant thinking and rule-keeping and legalism. Jesus makes the vital link between love and obedience for us. Keeping His commandments is the flower that blooms from our love for our Savior.