Focus 40 Day 3: Extreme Living – Obedience of choice
Prayer focus: Pray for health for each part of the Body of Christ – Romans 12:13-20
Extreme Living—Obedience of Choice
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and under-stand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
—1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (NRSV)
I HAVE A CONFESSION: I am a rule-follower. I believe rules are there for a reason: they keep us safe, and I like safe.
So it is a bit of a relief that Jesus strips down all the commandments to the two: to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I mean, how difficult is it really, to love?
There is, however, a difference be-tween loving out of obedience and loving out of choice. If we only love out of obliga-tion to the rules, are we really being loving or are we simply being obedient? Ask the kid who has to give his sister a hug to make peace even though she was the one that started the fight. I don’t know that I would believe him if he said he loves his sister in that moment. More likely he’s trying to avoid punishment.
Yet we sometimes talk about love like it is an easy thing:
• as if it is the warm, fuzzy feeling we get about God from singing our favor-ite hymns or praise choruses,
• as if it is demonstrated by having all the right answers to the Bible ques-tions, or
• as if it happens through bringing soup to a needy family.
Don’t get me wrong; those are all ways to show love—and significant ways too. But if we only love to obey the rules, it isn’t very believable. I don’t mean we should try to create warm, fuzzy feelings for all of God’s creation. That isn’t believable either. But perhaps we should be more aware of how we use the word love.
To the God we claim to love, do we say “I love you” because that is what is required of us as followers of Christ, or do we mean it like, “I will follow you with my whole life”?
To the people we see each Sunday at church, do we say we love them because it is part of a ritual, or do we mean it like “let me wash your feet”?
To the people we see on the streets, do we say “Jesus loves you” because it’s the right thing to say as Christians, or do we mean it like, “Let’s walk together. You tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine”?
Jesus, we confess that we sometimes don’t fully understand what you ask of us when you call us to love. Help us to love authenti-cally today. Amen.
Jael Tang, Church of God Missionary to