23 Nov Fearful or Loving Obedience
When I was a little girl, I would put myself in timeout before I got in trouble. Seriously—ask my mom. For me, the fear of getting into trouble was worse than the punishment, so I would preemptively strike and just punish myself if I thought I had done something wrong. That’s just it—I’m usually afraid of doing the wrong thing.
So when I read the Scripture of the Ten Commandments, the Israelites’ fear stands out to me. Moses says, “God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20). I think about how that resonates with me. I usually obey out of fear of getting in trouble with some higher authority—and when that higher authority is the Creator of the universe, I feel the weight of obedience even more.
But here’s what really gets me: Jesus sums up the last six commandments in Matthew 22 during His sermon on the mount. He doesn’t say, “Do not hate your neighbor” or even “Love your neighbor out of fear of God.”
“I usually obey out of fear of getting in trouble with some higher authority—and when that higher authority is the Creator of the universe, I feel the weight of obedience even more.”
He’s clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus isn’t calling us to obey the Creator of the universe out of fear, but out of love.
Jesus asks our obedience to be actionable love for our brothers and sisters as a reflection of the love He has for us by taking the weight of our sins on the cross. How much more powerful is obedience rooted in love than obedience rooted in fear? Jesus didn’t willingly go to the cross out of fear of what God would do, but out of loving obedience to His Father’s will. Jesus’s message is that others will know we are believers by the love we show to other people. What He describes is an incredible sacrificial love for another. It’s convicting for me to think that my obedience to the last commandments about my neighbors should be about love for them and not fear for myself.
“How much more powerful is obedience rooted in love than obedience rooted in fear?”
The blessing is that we are equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit to follow through as we all practice what it looks like to love others the way Christ loves them. James says we know we have faith by the good works that we do. It’s not that we work for our faith, but that faith works. When I think of what it means for me to love my neighbor, I realize it is not an ethereal idea but a tangible action.
Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s impossible to do without the knowledge of the love that Christ has for all of us. Let’s allow love to drive our obedience to the greatest commandments and our fear to drive great awe for what He has done on the cross.
While Jackie is officially employed as a physical therapist, she is also known around the church for baking chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes. She loves serving in Forge and recently just graduated her group of high school girls she has led for the past 4 years. Given a free day, she would love to spend it outside with her husband exploring a new place she’s never been before. Jackie attends our Pelham campus.