Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” John 14:23. It seems to me that what is of importance here is recognizing the difference between “having” to obey and “wanting” to obey. In our world, when parents enforce rules and discipline, the desire is that a relationship of respect and love will develop and the children will respond accordingly, whether the parents are within earshot or not; whether it will get back to them or not. Prayerfully, the hope is that the child will want to comply with an understanding that in the end, he or she will be better for it. If all one does is obey rules because of consequences and punishment, then rules generally get thrown out the window, when the rule maker is not around.
I guess what I’m trying to say and what Jesus is alluding to is when grounded in love, people want to respond favorably, if for no other reason than to look good in the eyes of the person they are trying to impress. What Christ is saying is the same thing that many a mother and a father want to believe about their kids. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all know what behavior would upset Mom and Dad. We know this because they have spent a lifetime (yours and mine) instilling values and integrity into our character and hopefully into our very natures. You might still do things they wouldn’t condone, but you certainly know the difference between right and wrong because of your upbringing. That upbringing, if nurtured in the spirit of love, reveals to all of us the source and nature of the consequences. The discipline that results from wrongdoing and wrong thinking comes from one place, love. If you can’t remember this, let me remind you that it’s that “this is going to hurt me more than it will you” thing.
Christ is merely reminding us that if you love Him, then obey His rules, His teachings, which were given to us out of the love of the Father. Remember where they come from and why. Our desire to please should override our fear of discipline. My point is that obedience to God has so much more to do with wanting to do the right thing for the right reason, than doing the right thing because it is the law. One is the result of relationship, while the other is the result of fear of consequence. Throughout scripture, Jesus constantly refers to the love of the Father. How many of you do what your mother would expect of you and she’s been dead for years? How many of you find yourselves passing along those same expectations to your children and are ready to pounce if you see disobedience? Why? I submit that you do this because of the relationship you have or had with your parents. This relationship thing serves us all well when we contemplate obedience. It’s a love thing. It’s a “want to” thing. “I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” John 14:30-31.
To obey should be an act of love. As children, this might be difficult to understand. As Christian adults, it shouldn’t be. Our goal should be to recognize God’s love for us and simply do our best to return it; act accordingly so to speak.
May God Bless and keep you always, James