One of the great ways that we talk about being a Christian these days is if we’re someone who “loves Jesus”. I really like this expression because it appeals to the part of me that wants to go beyond religious labels. But I think we can also become a little flippant in talking about “loving Jesus”, partly because I also say I “love pizza”, “love sleeping”, “love Star Wars” etc. What is about loving Jesus that is different than loving other things or even other people? I thought it would be good to think briefly about how Jesus described those who love him, and perhaps we can work it out together from there.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
Jesus’ disciples here have been asking him questions about how to get closer to God, and here his disciple Judas (not the one that betrayed him, the other Judas) just asked him why Jesus is revealing himself to the disciples and not to everyone in the world. Jesus’ answer starts by reiterating what he’s literally just said (John 14:21) — those that love him obey him. Jesus is saying that he’s making himself known to those who love him, and that you can tell the ones who love him because they obey him.
It may sound a little forced to think that to love is to obey. Probably because when we’re obeying the rules our government put in place, it’s usually so we don’t get a speeding fine, not because we “love the government” (has anyone outside the government ever really loved it…?) Although it sounds like the idea is more like obeying your parents than an impersonal governance, as Jesus refers to God as “Father” throughout John 14.
I still remember being a kid and the idea of “obeying your parents” was the absolutely most uncool thing ever. Seeing it from a parent’s point of view now, I know how many times I need my daughter to obey me — she can’t understand why I won’t let her keep playing in the sun without a hat or sunscreen, or why I want to end her playtime and give her dinner/put her to bed. There are so many times I just wish she would trust that I had her best interests at heart and obeyed me without questioning. I’m not always right, but I do have 25 more years of experience in this world than she does and I like to think I get it right some of the time!
And there are times where she does obey. I say “time to pack up”, and she starts packing away immediately! Or, “hey, how about you use the toilet before we go” — she does, and does it all without unrolling a whole toilet paper roll! Those times are so sweet, so lovely, when she listens to me because she knows that I love her and I want the best for her. When she looks past her own immediate desires and tries her best to do what I ask her to do.
So when I say “I love Jesus”, I guess that’s a time for me to pause and reflect. Do I actually? How am I showing him that I love him? When was the last time I sat down to talk with him? Am I asking to be more like him each day? Am I striving to be a man after his own heart? Because this is going to take time, my own initiative, understanding of what he wants, and a big heart for him. I think I’ll start by spending time with him right now…