Does Anybody Really Like House Rules?
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." John 15:9-10 (NIV)
From the day I drove off with my newly printed license, my parents made the house rules clear: Any tickets or accidents would be my responsibility. All was well until my friends and I took off for the beach my senior year, and I backed into a parked car before I even caught a glimpse of the ocean.
I cried knowing I'd have to work all summer at my minimum wage, fast-food job to pay for the damage I'd done.
The sting of that seemingly unfair rule smarted until I became a parent, and my son scratched the side of a car on a mailbox last summer. Suddenly, from the view of a mom, the same rule I'd resisted as a teenager taught my son responsibility and care.
Yet with God, the ultimate loving parent, we don't always understand that the same principles apply. Sometimes God's directions seem arbitrary and unfair. Especially in a culture lacking clear boundaries of right and wrong.
We find ourselves thinking things like, Surely we should get to decide how much of the truth we tell at work, when to forgive a critical friend or the limits of our sexual behaviors. We're adults now, after all. Rules are for children, right?
Yet, God wants to give us a new perspective on the subject of commands and obedience. His ways are often the opposite of our ways, and today's key verse, John 15:9-10, shows us that a life of obedience to God is a reward, not a punishment:
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love."
In these verses, Jesus calls us to remain in His love, a very safe place to be, by obeying His commands.
The word "remain" in verse 9 can also be translated "dwell" or "reside." That helps me picture God inviting us into a dwelling place with protective walls built layer by layer with His commands.
All caring parents have house rules. And God is the most loving parent of all. He has established a beautiful place where we're invited to live with Him, protected and cherished.
But for a woman who struggles with feeling like she has to work to earn God's love, the conditional statement "if you keep my commands" has been hard to understand. I've had to dig deeper to understand how God's love and obedience work beneficially hand-in-hand.
Undeniably, God is love (1 John 4:16). The phrase describing God as "abounding in love" is found in Exodus, Numbers, Nehemiah, Psalm, Joel and Jonah. "His love endures forever" is repeated more than 20 times in Psalm 136 and dozens more times throughout Scripture. If God says it in His Word so many times, there's no doubt He means it! We can know for sure that God's love is always available.
It is unchanging and always there for us, but we have a choice. We choose through the condition of obedience to remain in His love or through disobedience to walk out of its protection.
Jesus' declaration of love feels like a warm blanket wrapped around me in a cold world. God, our heavenly Father, is drawing us into the beautiful life He created us for where His commands are simply the walls of the residence. Let's choose to move in and dwell in the presence of our Father's love.
Lord, I choose to trust that Your rules are for my good and growth. I want to remain in Your love, and live a life of obedience to You. When I want to push against Your ways, help me to look around at the walls of Your dwelling of protection and be thankful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
2 John 1:6, "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (NIV)
Psalm 119:14-16, "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are there any areas of life where you're not living in obedience to God's Word? How might that leave you unprotected or hinder your growth?
Read through John 15. How is God's care for you and His desire for your growth pictured in this chapter? Journal your response to God's deep love for you.