Why Jesus Said 'If You Love Me Keep My Commandments'
- Leah Lively Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 1 Jul
If you love me, keep my commandments. – John 14:15
When turning on the news or scrolling through social media “love” is not quite the overriding theme of the day. Dissension, animosity, and chaos bring to light the condition of our world.
The timeless beauty of the Bible reveals the same cultural struggles as we experience today. Reading through the Bible we find stories of war, division, and opposition.
Thankfully, we do find the overarching theme of “love” in the Bible. God’s love for His creation and desire for us to always remain with Him drove him to sacrifice his own Son, in the name of love, as punishment for our sin.
The Bible tells us that while love may not always be present, it should always be the goal.
What Does ‘If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments’ Mean?
In the New Testament, Jesus gives many commands regarding love. In John 13:34, Jesus tells the disciples to “love one another.” One chapter later, in John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (NKJV)
Jesus was sharing a final meal with his friends and his final words to them centered around love. Jesus did not take these commands lightly.
Jesus told the disciples that to show their love for God, they had to keep His commandments. He was sharing with them the calling God has placed on their lives and all our lives. Jesus was preparing them for his absence. He would no longer physically be with them, but they were to go on loving others to reflect God’s love on the world.
What Commandments Is Jesus Speaking of in John 14:15?
The “commands” Jesus referred to were not specifically the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai in the book of Deuteronomy. In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus was approached by Pharisees (religious leaders) who were trying to trick him. They were attempting to get Jesus to admit his teachings were false. So they asked Jesus which commandment, given to them by Moses, was the most important.
Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The command to love God and love others encompasses all Ten Commandments.
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How Jesus Demonstrated Love throughout the Scriptures
Jesus spent his ministry demonstrating love for others and reflecting the love of God. In John 4, at the beginning of his travels, Jesus brings his disciples to a town of outcasts, hated by the rest of Jewish society. Jews avoided the town of Samaria as if they were infected with disease. Their cause for hate was due to their religious differences.
Opposing beliefs caused the Jewish people to travel the longer route around Samaria to avoid any interaction. Samaritans were not allowed to travel to Jerusalem to enter the synagogue for any festivals.
Jesus purposely sits down at the well of Jacob on the outskirts of the town. The well is in the Jewish lineage, built by Jacob—one of the Patriarchs of the Jewish faith. The God Jacob worshipped, waits to speak to an ostracized Samaritan woman who also happened to be shunned by her town as well. Their differences were astounding: male and female...Hebrew Jew and Samaritan...pure and sinful.
She had been shown the wrong kind of love from six different men. Jesus intended to show her the love of God by speaking to her and treating her kindly. The water she came to collect from the well did nothing for her life of filth. The water Jesus offered would cleanse her from the inside out.
Jesus’ overflowing love for the woman at the well reflected the love God had for her.
She ran into town, proclaiming that same love on everyone she encountered. Obeying God’s command to love one another proves our love for God to the point of having an overflowing love for everyone. God’s love through us crosses barriers and wipes away opposition.
Seeing Sin and Serving Anyway
Jesus showed his love for his disciples by seeing their sin and serving them anyway. The chapter before Jesus tells them to keep his commandments by loving others, he demonstrated his love for them in a way no one would ever do.
He washed their feet. The feet were the dirtiest parts of the body. The task of washing feet was not even given to the servants in any culture during that time. Jesus did this as a metaphor to show his love and willingness to gently care for them.
Jesus knew his disciples would run and hide. He knew one would betray him and another would deny him three times. He loved them and washed their feet anyway.
Without hesitation, Jesus cares for the filthiest parts of us because He loves us. Just as he cared for the dirty sin of the Samaritan woman, he sees our sin and still chooses to love us anyway. In response, we should be willing to humbly demonstrate that same love for one another—no matter our differences and sins.
Peter demanded that Jesus not wash his feet. Jesus responded, unless Peter allows Jesus to wash his feet, he could not be a part of the calling God had on his life. We must be willing to allow Jesus to cleanse our dirtiest, most sinful areas in our lives so that we could interact with and love others despite their sin.
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Through Any Trial, Disciples Are Known by Love
In the final hours, Jesus and his disciples were together, Jesus had an abundance of wisdom to share with them. They were all about to encounter some excruciatingly difficult and painful circumstances...and Jesus was trying to prepare them for what was to come.
They were about to witness the ultimate hate crime. Their beloved teacher, the Son of God, was going to be humiliated, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Jesus was hated by those who disagreed with his message. Jesus knew that hate should not be met with hate, but with love. By telling them “If you love me you will keep my commandments,” Jesus meant that they must choose to love the people who will arrest, beat, and kill him in the next few hours.
Jesus taught them for three years, so naturally, everyone knew that they were his disciples—because they walked with him as his students. In Jesus’ absence, however, they would need to be identified as Jesus’ disciples by how they loved.
Those who would end Jesus’ life would also be some of the first people the disciples would share God’s love with, in the book of Acts. They would preach the saving love of Jesus Christ to the same Pharisees who put Jesus on the cross.
How Is Keeping Jesus' Commandments an Expression of Love?
Jesus’ command to love others was clear. “If you love me, you’ll keep my commands.” In other words, if you do not keep God’s commandments to love, you do not love God.
When we obey God by loving others, Jesus continues in John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth.” In Jesus’ absence, as we reflect the love of God to those around us, we will receive the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we continue to fulfill the calling God has given each of us, loving others with the abundance of love God has given us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can love those who may not agree with our political positions. We can overflow God’s love to those who are the most difficult to treat with kindness. Then we are fulfilling God’s call on our lives, to reflect His love on those who feel the least loved.
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Not a Chore but a Choice
When we obey God’s commands out of duty or obligation, love can become a chore. Some people are easier to love than others. At times, we are one of those hard to love people. God made clear what our motivation for loving others should be.
When His Son gave His life as a punishment for this sin of the world, the sacrifice of Jesus was the ultimate act of love. He died for all of us, especially those who are the hardest to love, those who commit crimes, those who oppose our political convictions, and those who differ from our morals and values.
Jesus Christ’s death serves as a bridge of love over every difference and opposition between all of us.
A Prayer to Answer Jesus' Invitation to 'Keep My Commandments'
Dear God, help me to love others the way You love them. Help me to step over racial, political, and religious barriers to show Your love. I love You and I want to demonstrate that love by keeping your commands to love others. Thank you for the demonstration of love by sending your Son to die on the cross for my sins. May your love for me overflow onto those around me. Amen.
We all need help loving others the way God has called us to love. God sees the filth of our sin and chooses to love us anyway. Jesus’ death on the cross cleanses us from the inside out, the ultimate demonstration of love.
Jesus’ sacrifice bridges gaps and crosses barriers. That is what love does. Pray and ask God to help His love overflow through you, to others around you.
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Leah Lively is a wife and mother of four living in central Virginia. Through writing and speaking opportunities, she is passionate about encouraging others in learning more about the Bible and maturing in their faith. Leah writes on her blog at leahlivelyblog.com and just released her second Bible study, 30 Days in Acts – A Journey: Igniting the Flame of the Early Church. Connect with Leah on Facebook and Instagram (@leahlivelyblog).