Rules, Religion and Real love.

When I was at school I sat beside someone who was fascinated by the fact I was a Christian. The most common thing they would say as the reason they weren't a Christian was, 'I could never live by all the rules.' At the time, young in my faith, I found myself admitting that my belief at the time was that the Christian faith was a lifestyle of rule keeping. I even remember on one occasion telling him that I didn't think he could keep all the rules either. I do find myself cringing more and more when I reminisce. 

As I have grown older and discovered the expansive grace of Jesus I have realised that rule keeping is perhaps the worst way to describe a life of following Jesus. If anything Jesus's life, death and resurrection are the ultimate end to any need to keep rules. He has come to fulfil all of the rules, to tick all of the boxes and to offer us free and un-earnable favour and grace. 

Jesus does however ask us to love Him and the way we do that is by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). We are faced with the paradox of the Christian life. One the one hand it is not about the rules, it is not about keeping our sin levels at an acceptable level, it is about grace and on the other it is about keeping commands to show our love. What is the difference?

Well I think it is the starting point. A religion of rule keeping has at its core a sense that love can be earned. it is an attempt to attract God's favour by being just squeaky clean enough for Him to love. We keep the rules to earn His love that we already had. The second option starts with love. We are loved so we love in return and the commands that Jesus calls us to keep are the best ways to show that we love Him.

The good news is that Jesus sums these up by calling us to love others. If we love God (the greatest commandment) we show it by loving others (the second greatest). Jesus says that all of the commands of the Bible hang on these. He levels the playing field and he simplifies the game. If you want to show you live Him, love other people. 

When we get this idea into our core, if we kill the lie that we need to please Him in order earn His love and embrace the fact that we are showing that we are loved by loving in return we find real freedom. It is in that place of freedom that we begin to love the world around us. We are loved regardless so we can allow that love to flow out of us into the world. This begins to have an impact on everything we do and have. 

If we are set free in the love of God we are free to be generous, we are free to forgive. We think about the planet in a different way, we think about our neighbours in a different way. We are loved so that we can love. We are blessed so that we can bless. We show that we are loved by loving. 

Obeying commandments is simple, it is to love. It is simple but it is costly, there is always more love required and more love to give. 

So this week, may we seek to be people known for our love. May we pour it out freely in every interaction, we will not run out, His love for us is eternal and infinite.