It is very typical for us as Christians to think that God will love us more if we obey Him but that is simply not true. Yet, every week our counselors at Grace Life hear Christian after Christian share on some level how they believe God’s love for them is in direct proportion to their obedience to Him. We understand how they feel because most of us were there at one time but it also breaks our hearts knowing the bondage this produces.
It seems as if we are sometimes schizophrenic in how we view God’s love for us. We tell those outside of Christ that God loves them no matter what they have done and He wants to have a relationship with them through faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person has come to Christ, we can infer or say outright that God will now love them only if they obey Him. Wait a minute! So God loves us unconditionally so we can come to faith in Christ but once we are saved, God loves us conditionally? To take a line from the movie, “O Brother Where Art Thou”, “That don’t make no sense!” It would seem as though our Father’s love would be just as unconditional after we are saved. Right? So, for we who are in Christ unconditional means that there are no strings attached to our behavior whether good or bad.
I love what John wrote in 1 John 1: “We love Him because He first loved us.” Living with the constant awareness of God’s love will lead us to obey Him. Imagine a child telling her parents she loves them but not obeying them.
For some who believe in living by grace, if the topic of obedience to God comes up, they immediately call that legalism. As Forest Gump said, “I’m not a very smart man, Jenny, but I do know what love is.” I’m not a very smart man either but I do know what God’s love is. And I know that when we know God loves us, we want to obey Him because we love Him. That’s not legalism at all. It’s a love relationship. Paul wrote that the love of Christ compelled Him to obey God.
If you are a recovering legalist, like me, and you have recently come out of legalism, I realize that because you obeyed God for all the wrong reasons, that word may conjure up very bad feelings. I remember when I had my grace awakening that I had no idea how to pray, even though I had been praying for two hours a day before that. I had to ask God to show me what prayer was all about because I had done it to impress God so He would love me more. We may need to ask the Holy Spirit to renew our minds about the difference in love based obedience versus legalistic based obedience to God.
We need to ask ourselves where we are as we read this? Have we obeyed God so He would love us more? The good news is He loves us whether we obey Him or not. Let’s all pray the Holy Spirit would deepen our understanding of this great gospel truth!