For the Love of God is Obedient
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"For the Love of God is Obedient"
(1 John 5:2-4)
I just read an interesting story about a man in Alberta, Canada, who lost his first wife. A couple of years later, a widow moved in down the street. From the minute they met there was something there, so it wasn't a surprise when they asked the minister to perform a wedding in her home. The families gathered and the minister started the service. It came time for the vows. Everything went without a hitch, until the preacher asked the bride, "And do you promise to love, honor, and obey him, until death do you part?"
The bride to be wrinkled her brow in thought. And then she said, "Are you crazy? Love and honor, yes! Obey, no!"
The groom's eyes shot wide open in surprise. He looked at his bride; looked at the minister; looked at the bride again; then he shrugged and said, "Oh, well, I guess two out of three ain't bad!" They got married! And they lived happily ever after!
In all the years that I've been a United Methodist Preacher, I've never used those vows. The only time I hear them is on TV, in movies or in stories. It's not in the United Methodist vows. Maybe that's because most of us don't really like the word "OBEY." We don't like the idea of obedience. We think obedience is for dogs.
We saw what blind obedience can lead to in Jonestown with Jim Jones. And in Waco with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.
The whole idea of obedience makes us a little uncomfortable; we think it will impinge upon our freedom. We're like the little boy who was sent to his room for misbehaving. After a while he came out and told his mother that he had thought it over and said a prayer.
Mom said, "That's wonderful. If you ask God to help you behave, God will help you." The boy replied, "Oh, I didn't ask God to help me behave. I asked God to help you put up with me."
We don't like the word OBEY. We would much rather have God just put up with us. Yet this passage tells us: "For the love of God is this, that we obey God's commandments."
At the Last Supper, when Jesus was trying to impress upon the disciples how things were going to be and how they should carry out the work for which they were commissioned, he told them four different times: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Here, John simply repeats what Jesus said to the disciples. We prove our love for Christ through our obedience to the commands of Christ.
I. GOD IS OBEDIENT TO THE PROMISE:
One of the first things we need to realize is that this call to obedience isn't limited to us. This call to obedience is covenantal in nature. And by that I mean that God is willingly bound by this covenant of love which has been made with us and with creation. God is obedient to the promises God has made.
There's a legend that says until the time of the Flood, all the oceans were filled with fresh water. It was the flood waters that made the oceans salty. They were salty because tears are salty. And the rain which fell for forty days and forty nights were the tears of anguish and anger shed by God over our sin and disobedience and the tears of grief for all those lost. As a result of those tears, God vowed never to destroy the world by flood again. The rainbow is the sign of that covenant and God is obedient to that promise.
God was obedient to the promise made to Abraham and Sarah, "I will be your God; you will be my people.and I will make you a great nation." And to the promise to Moses that the people of Israel would be set free and be established in the promised land.
We see God's obedience in the fulfillment of the promise of a Messiah, a Savior, in the coming of Jesus. We see God's obedience even when the fulfilling of the covenant brought the highest cost possible, the life of God's only Son. God is obedient and faithful to God's promises, no matter what the cost. We see that in our words of assurance from Romans 5:8 "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God's love toward us."
II. OUR RESPONSE:
A. Our response to the covenant of love, to God's grace and the gift of salvation should be obedience. Jesus' contemporaries, the Pharisees didn't have a problem with obedience at all. They just took it a bit too far. They took the 10 Commandments and boiled them down into 613 other laws. They were very sincere but a little misguided. They took God's Word literally but not seriously. They obeyed the letter of the law but not the intent.
There's an old "Leave it to Beaver" rerun in which Wally, Eddie Haskell and the Beaver are going to a movie. Mrs. Cleaver tells them to go see "Pinocchio," not the other movie in town, "Voodoo Curse." As they approach the theater, Eddie suggests a way around the problem. He says: "Your Mom told you not to take the Beaver to 'Voodoo Curse' - but what if the Beaver took you?" With that rationalization, they were convinced they had done nothing wrong. They obeyed the letter of the law but not the intent. Sometimes, we do the same thing.
B. Whether it's in a marriage or a friendship or in relationship with God, there is really only one proof of love, and that proof is obedience. There is no point in saying that we love someone, and turning around and doing the very things which break that person's heart. I remember when I was young I'd tell my mom, "Mom, I love you." Sometimes she smiled. But I remember one time when it had been one of those days for both of us and she said, "I wish you would show it a little more in the way you behave."
That's what Jesus meant when He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." That's what John meant when he wrote: "For the love of God is this, that we obey God's commandments. BUT LISTEN TO THE REST OF IT. And God's commandments are not burdensome."
Jesus WAS concerned about the law. But unlike many of the Pharisees, he was most concerned about the INTENT of the law. That's why he boiled the 10 Commandments back down to 2. When asked which was the greatest Commandment Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And you should love your neighbor as yourself."
This kind of law isn't impossible to be obedient to. Because this kind of obedience isn't founded on submission to power. It's based upon love. It's based upon the love, grace and forgiveness we have experienced through Christ. The impetus behind our obedience is simply to show love for God and for others.
III. CALL TO OBEDIENCE = LOVE:
A. So this call to obedience which John gives is simply a call to love. To love God with all that we are. And to love one another as God has loved us. This call to obedience, this call to love is a high calling. One that can't be carried out on our own. It can only be carried out with Christ. But it is one that makes a difference both in our lives and in the lives of others. We're called simply to love God and love others. Francis of Assisi may have said it best when he said: "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary use words."
B. When we remember who we are and who we belong to and live that out in simple ways for others to see, it makes a difference. A number of years ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store. I had the honey do list in one hand and the bread, milk, and other stuff in the basket. In front of me at the check out counter was a young man eight or nine years old. He was looking over that display of candy bars that are always there to tempt everyone who's on a diet. I could tell this was an important and momentous decision. Choosing just the right candy bar is never easy.
I remember thinking, "Good choice" when he picked a big old Baby Ruth and laid it on the counter. The cashier rang it up and told how much it was. The boy reached in his pocket and pulled out a bunch of pennies, nickels and a single dime and plomped them on the counter. The cashier gave him one of those looks and started counting. Then he looked up and said, "You're 12 cents short. You need another 12 cents." The boy's shoulder's drooped, his face dropped and He went from grin to groan in less than a second.
Just as the cashier started to tell the boy to put the candy bar back, I reached in my pocket and put 12 cents on the counter. The boy's face lit up like Christmas. He said, "Thanks, mister." And he took off. But then he turned around and came back.
He held up the candy bar and asked, "Hey, mister, you wanna bite?" I said, "No thanks, you eat it." Then he looked at me real careful, like he was studying me and he asked. "How come? How come you did that?" Before I could answer, he got a look of recognition on his face. "Oh, I know you, your that preacher. Jesus made you do it, didn't he?" What could I say but "Yes, he did."
Then he said, "I sure like Jesus. And I am glad Jesus makes nice people like you. Bye." Then he was gone.
I don't know who touched who more. I DO know that I've never gotten that much pleasure out 12 cents since or before. I didn't do anything special, but with God's love and 12 cents I was able to touch a little boy's life and bring glory to God simply by obeying Christ's command to "love our neighbor's as ourselves."
There are some folks here this morning who will hear John's challenge to obey the covenant of love; to obey Christ and they'll respond like the bride I talked about earlier by saying, "Are you crazy. Love and honor, yes! Obey, no!"
But that won't change the challenge or the command. Our challenge is to prove our love for God by living our faith to the fullest by loving God and loving our neighbor.
"For the love of God is this, that we obey God's commandments. And God's commandments are not burdensome."
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
Give thanks for blessings of this day:
The joys expressed this morning:
For the warmth of friendship and your love that warms us this cold morning.
Ask you blessings and your presence in the life of those we have lifted in concern this morning.
Touch with healing, with comfort, with Your strength and presence. Give them strength.
Help us to be your hands and feet for them.
We come, also, because you are the Lord of the just and the unjust. We confess that sometimes Your ways puzzle us. Sometimes we find Your commands ARE difficult. We know that wasn't the intent. But it's not easy for us to bless those who insult us and to pray for those who abuse us. You call us to love the ungrateful and the selfish just as much we love those who are kind and generous. Lord, that's hard. How can we do that?
And then we remember that you did much more than that. You loved us when WE were anything but lovable. And you continue to love us even when we get so busy we forget all about you.
In your mercy, Lord, forgive us. We have been unfaithful. We have cursed those who have cursed us; we acted with scorn rather than love. Deliver us from bitterness. Rescue us from resignation. Lift us from despair to hope and trust in your mercy and justice.
Help us to love you with all that we are. And help us to love others as you have loved us. In the name of the one who exemplified love, Jesus, our Savior. Amen.