It’s a simple thing I’m going to say. But it will answer most questions.
I am quite familiar with a personal desire to be enough, to accomplish what’s necessary. I’m also quite familiar with a general inability to perfectly do so. So when I try the whole religion thing, I frequently encounter what I label as failure.
As a backdrop, the Christian faith is rooted in the idea of “grace.” This is the offering of an undeserved gift. Putting faith into Jesus (His deity, birth, death, resurrection) precludes the reception of the gift of eternal life and communion with God. “By grace you are saved through faith,” is one of the simple and comprehensive phrases of the Bible.
But what’s real faith? And what about rules? Those that Jesus, this giver of grace, still bothered to command us? If the gift is free, what of obedience? Why do it?
Well there are phrases like, “faith without works is dead,” that quicken the heart, make one question this freeness of grace. James mentions a showing of faith BY works.
So….are works necessary or not? Is obedience necessary or not? To what degree? How perfect do I actually have to be?
I have wondered these things. And I have begun to think of it from another angle, and in a much simpler manner. Let’s first remember love. Oh this is going to be good. What is it? We talk of it often as a feeling. But with any maturity, we all come to know that it never stops there, that it can’t. How many times have you heard someone tell you that someone wouldn’t treat you a certain way if they loved you? This is because we know that love is not merely of the heart; it is essentially a mover of the body. You display unique kindness to the ones you love (unique cruelty at times, too, but that’s another conversation). It is impossible to declare love to someone who you treat with indifference.
Right? [As an aside, loving from afar can only carry so much weight. And generally, if it is really love, it is still coupled with acts of kindness that the loved may never see – a favor on their behalf, copious amounts of prayer, etc.) Love that’s really love is always displayed with action.
Getting to the point: “We love Him because He first loved us.” Ahh. Okay, that is simple truth #1. Well the second must be how He loved us first: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This, my friends, is grace. Jesus is the gift. He offered up Himself as a sacrifice in our stead, so that death wouldn’t win. Now by grace we are saved through faith “and that not of ourselves, lest any man should boast.” So there is no earning it…so works can be nothing but a…display of faith?
It is so simple, in truth. It is impossible to love God and never obey. It is impossible to love your spouse and do the opposite of what they like every day. No one would ever believe you love a person who you treat that way. So when Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments,” He was reiterating this simple truth that faith in Him couldn’t possibly be coupled with a blatant disregard to His teachings. We love Him, because He first loved us. And we love Him, so we try our best to keep His commandments.
We don’t EARN His love (or salvation) by loving Him any more than you can earn or force someone to love you who you choose to love. Love is not this cause and effect thing. You can love and not be loved. You can be loved and not love. You know this! But you also know that those who love you best tend to draw you in. Jesus does this. His love is powerful and uniquely perfect. The more of His love we feel, the greater our desire to love Him in return. So we obey. So we give up alcoholism. So we give up sex in the wrong situations. So we accept a possibility of being burned at the stake. So we help when we don’t want to. So we teach His teachings even when they aren’t popular.
Not (NOT NOT NOT) so that we may earn this love that He has so dramatically displayed on the cross and that He hovers over us with everyday, but simply to say back, however feebly,
“Jesus. I love you.”
So, yes. Rest assured in His grace. It’s enough for you. It is surely what will guarantee your entrance into the pearly gates. But if your love is real, show it. How can you not?