Think for a moment of someone that means a lot to you, someone you really love. It might be your husband or wife, it might be a very good friend. When you love someone you will do things that they ask you, because you love them. They may ask you for a favour which doesn’t really suit you, but you will probably do it anyway because you love them. Trying to please them is a way of showing them you love them.
Our relationship with the Lord works the same way. We try to follow the way of life that he taught us, because we love him. We try to keep his commandments, because we love him. It is a way of showing God that we love him. And not just because we love him but also because we believe that what God teaches us gives us life. The path that He has pointed out to us is the one that will help us the most and lead us to the greatest happiness. The difficulty is that we cannot see that, so we are often tempted not to bother. ‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word.’
Because of what we call original sin, we do not enjoy the harmony within our own selves that God originally intended for us. In other words there is a struggle going on within. And one of the effects of that is that we don’t always see things as clearly as we should. We often find it difficult to choose even what we know is right. We are often suspicious of God and his teachings. We are not always convinced that God is trying to help us. Think of times when you see some situation of terrible suffering on the news, or with someone you know, and you find yourself saying, ‘how can God allow this to happen?’ as though God were evil. We may see his commandments as a burden for us instead of a blueprint or plan that will lead us to the most fruitful way of living. We don’t see clearly.
Because God is much wiser than we are, because He can see the whole picture and journey that is ahead of us, He gives us laws which He knows will help us. They are teachings which will help us to flourish; a kind of framework around which to live our life. They are also commandments not suggestions. In the Old Testament, when He gave the law to Moses, He said very definitely, ‘choose today blessing or curse, life or death.’ One leads to life, the other to death. Each of us still has that choice.
There is a tendency today, as you know, to believe that we can just pick the parts of our faith that suit us, and ignore the other ones. I’ve often heard people saying, ‘sure God will understand.’ Or, ‘I’m sure He doesn’t mind’. But why would God give them to us at all if he doesn’t mind?
The television doesn’t help us either, because it continually shows us that sleeping around, stealing, murdering, lying and ignoring God, are both normal and acceptable. And if we are told something often enough, we will begin to believe it. And that’s what the TV is doing to us. It is de-sensitizing us to sin and to what is wrong.
Now to go back to the words of Christ: ‘if you love me you will keep my words.’ And then he says, ‘peace I leave you, my own peace I give you.’ It’s as if he is saying this is what follows when you live my words. We receive peace, a deep peace which is the assurance of God’s presence even when we are struggling. The Lord knows well how much we struggle to live by his teaching. Everyone who tries to live it struggles, almost all of their life. But the Lord is telling us not to be afraid of the struggle, it is the path that leads to heaven, the only path worth following.
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.’