Think for a moment of someone that means a lot to you, someone you love. It might be your husband or wife, or maybe a very good friend. When you love someone you will do things that they ask you, just because you love them. They may ask you for a favour which doesn’t 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 and not because we have to. We try to keep his commandments, because we love him and we believe in what He has taught us. Our trying to follow his teaching is a way of showing God that we love him and also because we believe that what God teaches us gives us life. The path that He shows us is the one that will help us the most and lead us to the greatest happiness. The difficulty is that we don’t always see that and so we are not always convinced of it.
Because of what we call original sin, we do not enjoy the harmony within ourselves that God originally intended for us. In other words there is a struggle going on within us. 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 for a moment 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, or the cause of suffering. We tend to 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; we are suspicious of God.
Because God is 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 commandments not suggestions. In the Old Testament, when the Lord gave the law to Moses, Moses said to the people, ‘Choose today blessing or curse, life or death.’ One way leads to life, the other to death. Each of us still has that choice.
There is a tendency today, 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, ‘God will understand,’ or ‘I’m sure God doesn’t mind’, but why would God give us commandments if He doesn’t mind? God will not prevent us from choosing what we want to do, but God knows what will help us and what won’t. And so God’s Spirit continually whispers to us, pointing us in the right direction, but if we don’t try and listen we won’t hear what He is saying.
The television doesn’t help us either, because it continually shows us that sleeping around, stealing, murdering, lying and ignoring God, are quite acceptable. And if we are told something often enough, we will begin to believe it. That’s how advertising works. We are being de-sensitized to sin and to what is wrong. What we don’t see is how serious the consequences of sin are. They could cause us to lose eternal happiness. That is why God continually warns us about going against his commands.
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.’ Jesus is telling us what follows when we live his words. We receive peace, a deep peace which is the assurance of God’s presence even when we are struggling. The Lord knows how much we struggle to live by his teaching. All of us struggle trying to be faithful, but the Lord is telling us not to be afraid of the struggle, it is the path that leads to heaven and it is the only path worth following.
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.’