“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
John 14:21,23 (RSV)
After a visit with the grandchildren, I’ve been thinking about the joys of an obedient child.
Obedience bespeaks trust and becomes a kind of evidence that love has truly been received by the child. And such obedience brings joy, for it becomes a kind of gift back to the parent, a rewarding ratification of the care and love given to the child, often through effort and sacrifice. It completes the circle of love.
Disobedience, in contrast, communicates distrust and doubt about the parent’s care, and it can bring a kind of bewildering, helpless pain to the parents who are trying their best to love well.
Jesus says the same thing: that the proof of my believing and receiving his love for me will be my obedience to his commandments. I can actually bring joy to his Heart through my faithful efforts to keep his word. The result will be a lovely connection and intimacy with him, one in which the actual Godhead makes my body and soul His home.
Filial obedience is not supposed to be about fear or power or knuckling under (see the elder brother in Luke 15:29-31 for a negative example…), at least not with a loving parent. It is meant instead to be about the gifts of love from the Giver, and the response of gratitude and trust. God is the very best of fathers and he has already given us his best, his Son, to be our Savior, Shepherd and Friend.
When we fail to trust our Heavenly Father’s love for us; when, because of our past’s woundings, our hearts doubt that his love is enough; when, though we know better, we feel like we are alone in our lives and we fear that we’re left to our own devices to manage the challenges of our lives – it is then that we may fall back on old, sinful, untrusting ways and become disobedient children. Yet our patient, faithful Father waits, like the Father of the Prodigal, for us to come home to him. And, like the Father of the Elder Brother, he comes out to us and invites us to join his celebration of joy and life restored.
May your generous love, grace and mercy, oh our Father, be written on our hearts! And may our response be a swift and joyful “yes” to all your commandments!
“To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory