I’ve begun attending a Saturday morning book study with men in my town. (Actually, I used to attend the study a few years ago, but dropped out because my family was growing and Saturday morning was not the best time to get up early, accidentally wake up the kids on the way out the door, and then leave my wife to manage it.) Because I do a lot of talking and teaching as a pastor, it’s good for me to sit and listen from time to time.
Most recently, our study included a discussion around the relationship between commitment and compliance. In essence, we considered the difference between having commitment to Christ and merely complying with His commands and ways. The men of the group shared wonderfully thought-provoking and insightful ideas about how we all struggle to be consistent, wholehearted followers of Jesus. The conversation was clarifying for me, as I considered how often I’m content merely checking spiritual boxes, without much real interaction with or focus on the glory and pleasure of Christ.
However, as I mulled this over in the company of these men, I was gripped by a returning realization of just how far I’ve fallen. It became more clear to me that my struggle with commitment and compliance in the Christian life is deeper than the mere practice of daily living. The trouble actually starts in the false assumption that commitment to Christ and compliance with His wishes can be separated to begin with.
Love-less Doing Does Nothing
If the Christian life was only composed of tasks to do for Good, perhaps cold-hearted compliance might be possible. But the ultimate call of God’s Law is not to be a doer, but a worshipper; not a Law-keeper, but a Christ-lover. Thus, true “compliance” (if we can even call it that) requires heart-level commitment to Christ. Think of the two great commands as Jesus declared them:
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Living for Christ requires loving Him. So it appears our legalist, “do what He says mentality” goes wrong much earlier than we may realize. It goes wrong earlier than the attempted doing. It goes wrong at the first deluded thought that doing without loving is even a kind of doing. Because the call of Jesus is love, love-less doing is actually no doing at all.
I think this realization should lead us not to stop our pursuit of living for Jesus in the daily tasks and responsibilities and obediences to which we are clearly called (John 14:15), but to make or highest aim to infuse those obediences with love and happiness in Jesus.
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