If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
Yesterday was St. Valentine’s Day; a day on which “love” is celebrated. I dearly wish I could say that I believed love was the celebrated thing on Valentine’s, but I have lost the level of naïveté required to think such a thing.
The verses immediately preceding this one are often quoted by those who want to be able to pray for anything they want and to try to force God to keep a promise He never made. He never promised to do anything I asked Him unless it was asked in His Name (cf vv 13-14). The modern Western world has lost the concept of someone’s name, so let us say instead that we can make authorized transactions against His store credit account. As with those credit accounts, the terms are stated up front and there are limits to where and how and to what extent the credit can be applied. For example, I opened an account with a jewelry store some years ago. I suspect that the account has gone inactive and closed by now, but the limits were very explicit. I could use the credit at that store up to the amount permitted by the available credit. I can go to God and ask for anything He has on the shelves — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom — and receive it without limit. Those items are in stock and mine for the asking. I can ask for many other things from God, but what I receive depends entirely on the will of God. If He wants me to have it, then it is likely there waiting for me. If not, then no amount of asking is going to make it mine (or I will rue the asking if it does).
What does any of that have to do with this morning’s verse? Everything. Jesus places a limit on what I can ask and prescribes what it will look like if I love Him — two things upon which we do not like.
First, my love for Him will work itself out in obedience. If [I] love [Him], [I] will keep [His] commandments. Obedience is the hallmark of my love for Him. If I am being disobedient, it is likely because I do not love Him as well as I should; as well as He deserves. But this also circumscribes the limits of what I can ask for from Him. For example, I love my wife. As such, there are certain things I simply do not ask from her … because I love her. I do not, for example, ask her to watch violent movies with me. Her makeup is such as does not tolerate those well. So, because I know her and love her, I do not ask of her something that I know to be injurious to her. Which leads to the second part.
Second, my love for Christ will result in obedience and obedience coupled with love for Him will lead me to ask only for things that will mutually bless both His heart and my own. Him first. Me after. That is the limit placed on what I can ask. What I can ask is what my love for Him and my obedience to Him will allow. Which is to say that I am allowed to ask for anything I know will please Him and bless His heart and I am not allowed to ask for anything that I know will hurt Him.
Am I loving Him by keeping His commandments? For the record, He said that two summed up the entirety of the Law and the Prophets: love God with everything in me and love my neighbor as I love myself. I know I fall short of these, but am I making them my aim and trusting that God will enable me to obey? I love Him by obeying Him. I obey Him by loving Him. It makes for a rather simple equation.