John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
When I was a student at Wheaton Grad School I was blessed to be able to take a course taught by Dr. Merrill Tenney, a great Bible scholar. In one class we were talking about the importance of words – their meaning and the context in which they occur. He mentioned that the two words ‘sight’ and ‘vision’ were perceived by most people to have the same meaning. But then he noted that if he described someone’s wife as a sight and his wife as a vision, the meanings are very different!
I would like to pose something that is just the opposite of Dr. Tenney’s illustration. It is where two words are considered as having distinctly different meanings, yet a certain context can cause them to be viewed as having the same meaning.
The two words are ‘suggestion’ and ‘command’. There is a similarity to these words in that they are at opposite ends of a spectrum. In a college environment, we might simply think of one as an elective course and the other as a required course. Electives are optional, required courses are – well, required!
A suggestion may or may not be a good idea, but we have the freedom to choose to follow it or not. A command is decidedly different. We typically think of a military context when considering commands. Commands are to be obeyed.
What is the context that causes these two words to potentially have the same meaning? Unfortunately, that context for Christians is the context of our lives. How we live defines how we view the word ‘command’. All too often, Christians in day to day life, treat Jesus’ commands as suggestions. They aren’t approached as requirements, but as options or electives. But scripture doesn’t give us that option.
Christians tend to think “legalism” or have an “allergic” reaction to the words “commands” and “obey”. How often have we heard (or made) the response “We’re not under the Law”? But Jesus identifies His commands as the way to love Him! In fact obeying His commands is very the definition of loving God (1 John 5:3).
Our response should be an eagerness to learn what His commands are and pursue doing them. This is not an issue of legalism or earning salvation – it is a requirement of our faith. But more than that, it is an issue of love. It is the only way God has given us to show we love truly Him!
Lord, may our lives be living demonstrations that Jesus’ commands are not suggestions.