Aloha Friday Message – May 19, 2017 – Do You Love Me?

1720AFC051917 – Do You Love Me?

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John 14:15 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” NRSVCE

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.  ~~ Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV) KJV reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press, the Crown’s patentee in the UK.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea. The season of Easter is rapidly drawing to a close, and today I’m asking to look inside of you and answer the question God will ask you every day if you are listening. It is the way God tests us. We often think that when we endure hardships, pain, suffering, temptations, or any number of other negative things, that is God testing us. I think the test is a bit different. God tests us. He uses one of those incredible essay questions:

“Do you love Me? Why or why not?”

That’s THE BIG ONE worth 95 points out of a hundred possible points. But then he gives us lots of 25 point pop-quizzes with hundreds of bonus questions each worth up to 10 points each. Some are T/F, some multiple-choice, and some fill-in-the-blanks. Yes, He does test us, mostly on the essay, but, Good God that He is, he wants us all to get an A+ so they’re all open Book tests. Is being chronically ill with several debilitating conditions a difficult test? Is being mastered by addiction, even multiple addictions, a difficult test? Is giving your life for your child, or your spouse, or your nation, or a totally stranger a difficult test? Then what kind of test is it to love God?

If we love God, aren’t all of these other circumstances best conquered by knowing the we love God and – more importantly – God loves us? The verse I chose today is John 14:15. I’ve given you two versions of it because this is one I’ve pondered over many times. Let’s look at the first version from the New Revised Standard Version Bible. Note that it says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This could either be a declaration of fact or a commandment. Either way, the word “if” seems to make it conditional. We could switch the phrases around so it says, “You will keep my commandments if you love me.” This is a declaration that works out as an instruction: Love me, and that will be how you keep my commandments. We could get even more carried away and say it sounds like “If you really want to love me, just keep my commandments. Keeping my commandments is how you love me.” I can see how we might feel  like that is how Jesus might mean it. But even with that same, original word arrangement, there’s another sense presented. “If you [really] love me, you] will do as I have commanded] you.” Now, this also makes sense, because we know that God – the Trinity – has commanded that we love him since the very start, so if we really want to know how to love him, all we need to know – and do – is keep his commandments. It’s something to think about either way you look at it.

I decided to look deeper into God’s requirement that we love him. I was pretty surprised by what I found! There are many times in the Old Testament, especially in Deuteronomy, where God’s “thou shalt” is very clear. I decided to put them into a table for two reasons. First, because there were so many and secondly because there were also many places where God professes his love for us – initially through his love for his Chosen People. Here is the table:

Verse Core teaching
Exodus 20:6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (God loves us)
Deuteronomy 5:10 showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (God loves us if we love him, and even if we don’t love him)
Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (You must love him)
Deuteronomy 7:9 God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him (God blesses those who love him)
Deuteronomy 10:12 Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Easy: Love God, everything is good)
Deuteronomy 11:1 You shall love the Lord your God, therefore, and keep his charge, his decrees, his ordinances, and his commandments always. (Just do it. Love him!)
Deuteronomy 11:13-15 loving the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul (Loving him is how to serve him)
Deuteronomy 11:22 diligently observe this entire commandment that I am commanding you, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, (Follow the rules and just love him)
Deuteronomy 19:9 diligently observe this entire commandment that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and walking always in his ways (Ah, now we’re on to something!)
Deuteronomy 30:6 so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live (Loving God pays off.)
Deuteronomy 30:16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God (There it is again.)
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors (Loving God means life.)
Joshua 22:5 observe the commandment and instruction that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God (Again!)
Joshua 23:11 Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. (Pretty clear there.)
Zephaniah 3:17 [God] will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (God loves loving us!)
Romans 8:39 [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (It says what it says.)
2 John 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love. (John 3:16-17!)
Jude 1:20-21 keep yourselves in the love of God; (That’s where the best things happen)

 

After looking at all of that, let’s go back to the chosen verse as it appears in the Authorized King James Version. (And here are several parallel versions of the same passage – John 14:15 – so you can look at them) It says, If ye love me, keep my commandments. About 3 times out of 5 when I debate this with myself, the conclusion I come to is that THE test God gives us is “Do you love Me? Why or why not?” If you love me, [you can prove it when you] keep my commandments. Either way, it makes sense to me. Loving Jesus enables us to keep his commandments, and keeping his commandments demonstrates that we love him. But that pesky little word “if” seems to throw me off somehow. I decided to try to understand why Jesus used that expression.

Going back to the parallel versions cited above, we find that several include the words “you will.” It’s time to look behind the translations and see what’s up. The Greek word for “if” used here is ἐάν (ean) {eh-an’}. It turns out this is a surprising conjunction. It combines two instances – if or in case then provide that X happens.

I’m going to quote from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (found here) so that we can better grasp this idea: ἐάν – a conditional particle (derived from εἰ ἄν), which makes reference to time and to experience, introducing something future, but not determining, before the event, whether it is certainly to take place; if, in case. HUH? So, something has happened (Jesus has commanded), and in the future something could happen (commandments are kept) under the condition that (in case) we love Jesus (Ah-HA!) THIS is completely consistent with God’s continuing command to all of us: LOVE ME. “If you love me, I will bless with everything including life itself for you because I love you.” And over and over again he says, “Love me and show that love by keeping my commandments.” How do we answer God’s test question, then?

“Do you love Me? Why or why not?” I would answer, “Yes! I love you!” Maybe. I say maybe because maybe I think the next thing I’ll hear is a thunderous voice demanding to know

THEN WHY DON’T YOU KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS?!?

How do I, do you, do we answer that one? Let’s see:

  • Because I’m a sinner
  • I just don’t have the will power
  • My faith is weak
  • I don’t know what your commandments are
  • I don’t love you enough
  • Any or all of the above?

God knows I’m a sinner, so he sent Jesus to take care of that. I can do all tings through Christ who gives me strength, so that one’s out. My faith is weak, but “Lord I believe, Help my unbelief!” I know what the 10 commandments say, and I know what Jesus taught about the most important ones, but I don’t really know what Jesus means by my commandments. Are they different from the Big 10? I can’t imagine that any of us love God “enough,” certainly not as much as he loves us, and way less than what de deserves; but he knows that so he keeps giving us second chances (I once wrote about My 4,357th Second Chance). So the best answer is probably the last one, “Any or all of the above.” How can this be?

I do know, with totally certainty, that I DO love him! It’s an imperfect love for a perfect God. If you think about it – only a little, don’t over-think it as I have done – you love him too. And if you love him, then don’t you find that you’re trying as best you can to serve and obey him? Which of you honestly expects you to do more than your very best to love him, obey him, and keep his commands? Is it you, or is it him?

If HE loves US, then we stand a very good chance of loving him enough because he will love even the parts of us that love him imperfectly. How can that be. It is because when he looks at us he sees Jesus. Here are two things about which we can be absolutely certain:

John 14:20 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

John 14:28-29 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

If we know those two things, we believe; and if we believe, then we love; and if we love then we obey; and if we obey, we have kept his commands. If we have kept his commands, we know we are going to be OK in every test and trial, because Good God that He is, he wants us all to get an A+ so they’re all open Book tests. So which is right, 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Or 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. They’re both right! God’s message is consistent: Love and Obey. If you love, you will obey. If you obey, you will love.

I came across 2 interesting lists of things which can be characterized as “JESUS SAYS DO THIS,” i.e., his commands. You can find them here and here if you are interested.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Aloha Friday Messages by
Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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