Unburdened

Scripture: 1 John 5:3, ‘This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.’

 

Observations: John once again links love for God with obedience (2:3-5; 3:22-24), but his point here is not just to restate what he has already said. Rather his point is about God’s commands, that they ‘are not burdensome.’ The word translated burdensome means weighty. Jesus uses this same word when he describes the ‘heavy load’ that the Pharisees had placed on God’s people with all their extra laws (Mt 23:4). It’s interesting that Jesus uses the same word to describe ‘the weighty’ parts of the law that they should not have neglected, justice, mercy and faithfulness (Mt 23:23). John’s point is that God’s new law, that we are to love one another, is not a burden, but a joy. In fact, John would’ve agreed with Paul that ‘love is the fulfilment of the law. (Rom 13:10)’ Paul actually goes to great lengths to show that the new life lived in the Spirit is not about obeying a set of laws as much as it is becoming more like Jesus. It sounds like something someone who’ve said in the 60s but the Christian life is not about conforming to the rules, it’s all about love. But that’s exactly what Jesus said, the greatest command is to love God and the second is to love our neighbours, all the law has always hung on those two commands.

 

Application: Are you someone who worries about all the rules? Am I doing this or that right! John would encourage us to focus on loving others like God loved us and we will find that we aren’t breaking the rules, because the rules only unpack what it means to love others. We also need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of the Pharisees in making Christianity a burden for others. Do we expect others to follow the rules, or do we expect them to live a life of love just as Jesus loved them? Remember that love is the fulfilment of the law.

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to ask the question: is this loving, rather than just obeying the rules. Lord, may Your love for me in Jesus Christ transform my heart, so that I will love others, as He loved me. Lord may my obedience not just be an external conformity to the law, but may it flow out of a heart that has been forever changed by Your grace. May You lift any burdens that are weighing on my life so that I can serve You in the freedom of Your Spirit. I ask these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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