Today’s Scripture: John 15:9-11
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
I have always had a problem with the word “obey”. I think it may have developed as a teenager. But not for the reasons you might think. When I was in high school, I had a youth pastor who was obsessed with reminding us to obey God. It was all he talked about. Well, at least it seemed that way to me. This verse in John would have been one of his favorites because Jesus has given us an if/then clause. IF you obey God’s commandments, THEN you will be filled with joy. The way to happiness is to obey God, he would say.
The problem came when we started talking about what exactly it meant to obey. And here is where that pastor lost me. It seemed every lesson he taught, and every sermon he preached, was another rule we had to “obey”. The list just kept growing! But Jesus said if we want to have joy, we will obey! So, I tried my best. But I failed. But then again, anyone fails at keeping rules like that.
It was not until I got to college that I began to internalize the Greatest Commandment from Jesus. We talked about it in worship on Sunday. Once I understood that all the “rules” came from this one commandment – love God, love others, love self – then I was able to move away from making a bigger and bigger list of rules to follow in order to be happy. There is only one question to ask as we move through life as Jesus’ disciples: is it loving?
And do you know what happened? My joy came back – just like Jesus said it would. There is something very freeing about reorienting our lives around love instead of rules. And yes, doing so produces much joy.
I don’t know who needs to hear this today but give up the rule list you have created, or others have created for you. Concentrate on always asking “is it loving?” And see what happens to your joy.
God forgive us for being list makers. We pray that we will be filled with the joy that comes from loving you and loving others as ourselves. Help us to concentrate on love this day.