Love is about to break loose in large numbers. Football fans are going to file into stadiums everywhere and holler as loud as they can. A few fist fights will probably break out. Folks love their teams. Now me—I love espresso in a big yellow John Wayne mug. You often say you love things, too, like blueberry muffins so hot that butter instantly dissolves over the top. Puppies that like to sleep in the crook of an arm. The oldies station that plays something from Boston every hour. Three day weekends with the smell of meat on a grill. We’re prone to say we love just about anything.
Who could challenge our claim with love being so subjective? That’s why most people eventually demand proof of it. I think of absentee parents who feel compelled to tell their children “I love you.” Yet even a child will intuitively know that something is missing when love is felt and spoken, but not shown in some meaningful way—“Thanks for telling me what you feel, now could you please give me something to eat?”
Love? Prove it.
We meet the same dilemma in Christianity where everybody loves Jesus. It reminds me of an old King of the Hill episode. Hank tells Bobby, “You need a role model. Take me for instance. When I was a kid I worshiped Willie Nelson…and…uh…Jesus too, of course.”
Right. Who doesn’t love Jesus?
Let’s return to that passage in Exodus 21, where a Hebrew slave is offered freedom and turns it down, declaring, “I love My master, I will not go out free” (21:2, 5). Again, love talk. But the slave then submits to a strange ceremony. He allows the master to take an awl and drive it through his ear to the doorpost—a demonstration about as graphic as it gets. The slave virtually says to that master, “This is what I mean by loving you and never leaving you!” At this point, no chatter about feelings or intentions enters the conversation. Love ultimately demonstrates itself not by the heart, but by the ear.
The whole picture becomes meaningful when we consider that the ear is used for listening. Real servants of Christ listen to their Master. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Don’t confuse this with legalism. He didn’t say, “If you obey my commandments, I’ll love you.” Read closely: “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Our willingness to listen to Him and obey Him says “I love you” more than all the hugging on the planet (And please remember, the only person recorded as having embraced Jesus was Judas Iscariot).
Our obedience has nothing to do with an obsessive-compulsive need to be perfect. The schematic is simple here. We obey those we love not to earn their love, but simply because we love them. Never underestimate obedience in a love relationship with Jesus. He certainly doesn’t.
Kevin DeYoung wrote a book called, Just Do Something. One of his points was that while we obsessively look for divine guidance in particulars like what school to attend or who to marry, we may neglect or even actively violate what God has clearly told us in the Bible. Of course it’s illogical. I won’t listen to the Christ who inspired the Scriptures. However, I fancy myself willing to listen to a Christ who might speak inside my brain case. Something has gone haywire in that type of relationship.
Imagine a well-meaning husband who decides to help his wife by doing some grocery shopping. He calls her from the store and wants to know what she wants.
“Did you check the list?”
“Yeah, but I don’t like following that list.”
“But it has the stuff on it that we need.”
“I would prefer to be spontaneous. How about a couple cans of New England crab meat? And I’d really like to try out this fancy milk chocolate with peach chunks.”
“Ummm…that might be going off budget. Could you just stick with the stuff we really need?”
“No. I think I’d rather just forget the whole thing. I mean…diapers, milk, bread, cheese, cereal? Really? Where’s the excitement in any of that?”
“It’s not about excitement. Those are the staples. We have to have them.”
“Nah. Not interested.”
This happens more often than you’d think.