As we wrap up this series, we’re going to go back to where we started. When we started we had a very different understanding of love and what it meant to become love. Now that we’re on the end of that journey, we can see love is something entirely different than we’ve been taught by the world.
But before we can wrap this whole thing up, we have to talk about one more thing. We started talking about it earlier, bit it’s crucial when it comes to loving God and loving others. We also talked about faith. To the New Testament writers, faith that is not seen is not faith. Faith has to be visible. There must be some evidence. Another way of think of it it would be fruit. Faith needs fruit.
We have also talked about how the point of faith is that one day, we will be able to see God. Seeing God is reserved for people who have faith in Jesus as the Son of God and who love one another sacrificially.
Earlier I shared this quote from A.W. Tozer: “The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.”
Faith and Obedience go hand in hand. And the way to have more faith is to do more of what God commands. But, when it comes to the word obedience, we kind of start getting nervous. We don’t like being told we have to obey. As I write this, we are dealing with the “Stay Home” order put in in place by our governor due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The reason the governor had to put such an order in place was because people weren’t heeding the warning to not be in groups. In fact, this past weekend the leaders of our small coastal towns had to close the beaches because thousands and thousands of Portlanders went to the beach.
We had been given the warning to stay home. We had been told about social distancing. We’ve been told about how dangerous the virus is, how easy it spreads and a billion other stories, but we just wouldn’t listen. Why? Simple. “Nobody tells me what to do.” Michael Madsen, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Marc Morrone and hundreds of other celebrities and leaders of our day say the same thing. “Nobody tells me what to do.” “I don’t have a boss…”
Being a rebel is the American way. I think it’s actually hardwired into the DNA of every human, but there seems to be an extra strong dose of it in our blood. Which makes sense if you think about it. It was the rebels who left Europe for the chance to do things their own way in America. It was the rebels who left the colonies and travelled west. Rebellion is literally who we are.
We are constantly looking for ways to love God on our own terms. But that’s not how it works, because there is no love without obedience. We can’t love God and disobey Him at the same time. It doesn’t matter what the command is, if we’re disobeying God we aren’t loving Him. Because love is an expression not just a feeling.
If the goal of faith is to be able to see God either by seeing Him in our presence on earth while we love one another or to be able to see Him face to face when we cross over from this life to the next, obedience is absolutely necessary.
Why then do we refuse to obey?
A couple of summers ago, Henry my second oldest child, was praying for us to find a stray dog on our road. The kids saw a stray cat that had been dumped and convinced Bekki to go back and pick it up. A choice we question on a regular basis because she is the world’s noisiest cat. Well, that gave Henry the idea that we might be able to find a dog in the same way. So he started praying.
And you know what, we did find a dog. A beautiful golden retriever whom we named Maggie. We tried to find her owners, but she wasn’t chipped and no one claimed her. So, we had a new dog. She was a sweet dog, but didn’t have any training. For the first many weeks, she would spend most of her days hiding in a bush outside our front porch.
Eventually she came out to play and I wanted to try to train her with some basic commands. I was using dog treat to get her to follow me, saying “Come.” She would come and I’d reward her. All around the yard we went as she started to get the hang of that command. So, I decided to work on sit. “Sit” I would say and nothing. Again, “Sit” and nothing. Several times she didn’t respond. I tried to catch her sitting and tell her the command. But it wasn’t clicking. Finally I gave the command and gave her a light, golf clap tap on her tail.
Well, that was it. She quit and trotted back up to the house and hid in her bush. I suppose she had been abused which is why she responded that way. I never could get her to learn any commands. Any time I tried, she would quit and run back to her bush. Don’t get wrong, Maggie was a great dog. She loved being with us. She would spend most of her time where the kids were playing, follow them on their walks in the woods and scratch at the door and windows when we were inside. She wanted to be with us.
Unfortunately, much of the time we’re like Maggie. God gives us a command and as long as our obedience to the command comes with a reward we are happy to obey. But, when that command comes with something we’d rather not do, we find ourselves running back to the bush. We’re comfortable in the bush.
But there was a problem with Maggie. She was never house trained. And because I couldn’t train her on the simple commands I certainly couldn’t train her on the more difficult concepts. We let her in a couple of times, but that was a mistake and I’ll just leave it at that.
Maggie was content to live life on her terms getting fed and sleeping in the bush. Had she obeyed, there was an entirely different life she could have experienced. A life of warmth and comfort and licking up scraps that fall on the floor during dinner.
The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. We don’t get to vote on the rules. We don’t get to try to recreate the kingdom so it matches our preconceived, finite view of what we should and shouldn’t be allowed to do. The Kingdom is built on God’s eternal principles that are based on His eternal nature and character. The eternal King of the universe is not going to bring a being who’s only existed for a second to the table and ask them if they agree with His rules. He’s God. He knows better.
For some reason we feel like we deserve to have input into how we define good and bad, right and wrong and so forth.
But love require obedience. We love God by obeying God even when we don’t like it and when it doesn’t make sense to us. We love God even when it costs us greatly. Because love is a sacrifice. Love sacrifices itself. Love doesn’t fight for its rights. Love doesn’t run back to the bush when it doesn’t get its way. Love doesn’t obey only for rewards and treats. Love lays down its life for others.
It’s exhibited love that overcome the world. Faith that is unseen is no faith at all. But faith that is seen overcomes the world. Faith, the way we get to see God, is rooted in unconditional obedience.
Maggie either developed some kind of cancer or blockage that caused her to bloat really bad. The first time it happened Bekki and the kids prayed for her and she got better for a while. But then it happened again. She was in pretty bad shape, but I have never been strong enough to put a dog to sleep. She would go hide under our deck until she felt good enough to army crawl out.
One sunny day, the kids spent the day playing outside most of the afternoon. Maggie as uncomfortable as she was spent that day following the kids around, playing as much as she could or just laying near them as they played. They played hard and went far. The kids were exhausted at the end of the day. When they came inside the house for dinner, Maggie went under the deck where she went to sleep and never woke up.
She used up every last bit of energy she had that day to be with the kids. She might have made it a little longer had she rested, but she gave everything she had to be with her masters. She may not have learned how to sit, but she knew how to love. And on her last day she gave her life for love.
If we’re going to get one thing right, it has to be this: giving our lives for love. We won’t perfectly live up to all of God’s commands. We will fall short in different ways. But along the way, if we give everything we have to love our master by loving his kids, we have absolutely nothing to fear for we will have become love.