In reading the Gospels lately, there is a common theme in Jesus’ teaching that jumps off the page at me (JP). That theme: if you believe I am Lord, then do what I say. I really am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I’ve come so that you can have life to the fullest. But, having that life requires obeying me!
Being a parent has granted me the gift of understanding our relationship to our heavenly Father in better ways than ever before. Look at a scenario many parents are familiar with: parent wants what is good for the child, child doesn’t trust parent… But why?
Because sometimes what’s good for the child requires some element of suffering for the child.
The child can’t see past the short term suffering – giving up the toy to the younger brother, turning off the T.V. when mom asks, coming inside when told, …. etc. Since the child only sees the short term suffering, he/she has a hard, if not impossible time, believing that the parent has the child’s best interest in mind. But, the parent pleads with the child – if not explicitly, at least implicitly, subconsciously – to trust, just trust. “Child, if you’d just trust that I have your best interest in mind and obey what I tell you to do, life would go so well for you. I love you unconditionally, I take care of you, I want nothing less than for you to become the best version of yourself!”
But the child needs to do more than simply give mental assent to this claim from the parent – the claim that the parent has the child’s best interest in mind. The child actually needs to obey the parent! Without obedience, there is no growth. In obeying the parent, the child is participating in allowing the parent to shape him/her into the person the parents want them to be. And they want them to be a certain way only because the love them so very much! They want the child to be happy and they know what brings happiness and what doesn’t.
How similar have I been in my relationship with God to how my kids interact with me. Yah, yah, yah, God, you came and died for my sins, I get it. Jesus is God, I get it. …. 30min later when stuff is getting hard in the house, kids are screaming, dishwasher is broken, rain water is coming in the window, … whatever, I choose to sin, I choose not to obey Jesus’ commands in those moments. But if I really believe he is who he says he is, then the answer to all life’s greatest challenges is to do what he says! And what does he say to do?
That lead to the next logical question: what is love? How do I love as Jesus commands? Love is to will the good of the other. Love, which is what God is, is self-giving, indifferent self-giving. Love is giving of self regardless of the circumstances, regardless of what you will get in return. This is what Jesus came to show. He showed us what that looks like. And then he gave us the answers to all of life’s greatest troubles: do what I tell you – love others as I love you – and you will have life to the fullest. You will be free to freely give! Not to even begin to mention the endless grace he pours out on us when we make room in our hearts for him. If we just trust our Father in heaven has our best interest in mind and do what he says, we will have life to the fullest.
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:1
– John Paul