Let me be honest with you. For most of my Christian life I hated John 14:21. And “hate” is not too strong a word. It exhausted me. Demeaned me. Made me feel condemned. A daily failure. Trying to live it out eventually provided me with a year’s sick leave. I was in burnout. Depressed. I have shared that story on our podcasts.
John 14:21 was toxic to me because, like many who read it, I disconnected it from the gospel. I read it like this: “You need to obey to show God you love Him so that he will be pleased with you and love you back.” This not only creates a lot of hard work, it is really BAD news.
But when I learned to read it in the context of the gospel, I realized it could not mean the above. It is wrong because:
- It makes His love for us dependent on our love for Him.
- It makes us the initiator.
- It makes God the responder.
- It makes our obedience the proof of our love.
The gospel tells me the good news that my obedience is a result of God’s love for me, not a cause of it. And so I rewrote John 14:21 in light of the gospel and have taped it in my bible – along with how God is a gambler (see last week’s post). Here is what I wrote:
“You keep my commands and love me because I have given you a new nature and I have loved you first. Don’t ever think you obey and love me so that the Father and I will love you back. We made you into someone who has the ability and desire to obey, not so you can earn our love, but so you can experience the love we already have for you.”
Now it is no longer a “prove it” verse, it is an identity verse that describes me…and it is GOOD NEWS! God’s love is His character and my behavior cannot change His character!
How have you been reading this verse?
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