What does this kind of love look like in daily life? The answer may surprise you: obedience to God’s will as found in Scripture. According to the Bible, obedience is the acid test of true love for God. Jesus makes this clear when he says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15 NIV). So does the apostle John, who says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 ESV). If we love God, his commands will not be burdensome or irksome to us. Rather, we will desire to obey him. Do you desire to obey God and bring him pleasure through your obedience? The more we ponder and marvel at the good news of the gospel, the more we will want to please him.
Some people today mistakenly equate obedience with legalism and see it as the enemy of grace. But actually the opposite is true. Legalism comes from trying to earn God’s favor by obedience and sacrifice. The Pharisees were famous for this, and we can easily fall into it today by insisting on commitment and obedience without grounding it in grace and love. Obedience offered in love is the fruit of grace and is an antidote to legalism.
The second part of the Great Commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves, originates in Leviticus 19:18 and reflects the nature of God and his deep concern that we seek the good of others and bless them. Again, many people are confused about what it means to love our neighbor, thinking that it means to feel emotional warmth, sympathy, or closeness toward them. However, the agape love that is enjoined here is not primarily emotional in nature. It is chiefly volitional, an act of the will. It is acting in the best interest of the other person, seeking their good, regardless of how you happen to feel toward them. Jesus makes this very clear when he says: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). This is a wonderfully liberating command, because while it is not possible to feel emotionally close to everyone we meet, it definitely is possible to act in their best interest. We can always treat them as we would want to be treated if we were in their situation. Happily, feelings often do arise in the wake of our actions, but it is the action not the feeling that is most important. This simple but profound guideline will show us our duty in nearly every case.
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