Love and Obedience: Exploring the Biblical Relationship Between the Two

Our love for God is expressed through our obedience to His commands.

The word obedience has been given a negative connotation in our modern society. 

We associate it with being subservient or lacking freedom. But in the Bible, obedience is the expression of love towards God. It is not about being subservient or lacking freedom, but it is about showing our love and devotion to the Lord. In several places, Jesus says, “if you love me you will obey what I command.” 

Let us unpack this concept further and explore why love means obedience in the Bible.

Obedience as the Expression of Love

Obedience is not the opposite of love, but rather a core part of love. 

When we truly love someone, we desire to please them and make them happy. We follow their instructions, not because we are forced to, but because we love them and want to do what is right by them. In the same way, when we love God, we follow His commands because we desire to please Him and show our love towards Him.

Jesus teaches this principle in John 14:15, where He says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” 

Here, Jesus is not commanding us to follow His teachings out of duty or obligation, but He is inviting us to show our love towards Him through obedience. When we obey His commands, we show that we love Him and are devoted to Him.

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Obedience is NOT a Burden

The Apostle John reinforces this principle in 1 John 5:3, where he writes, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. 

And His commands are not burdensome.” John is saying that our love for God is expressed through our obedience to His commands. When we obey Him, we show that we love Him, and we demonstrate that His commands are not a burden to us.

The Relationship between Love and Obedience

The relationship between love and obedience is not one-sided. 

Just as obedience is the expression of love, love is also the motivation for obedience. When we love God, we are motivated to obey Him because we trust that His commands are for our good. We know that God loves us and wants the best for us, and so we follow His instructions because we believe that they are for our benefit.

Jesus highlights this relationship in John 15:10, where He says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” Here, Jesus is saying that obedience leads to remaining in His love. 

Obedience is not a means of earning God’s love, but it is a way of staying in His love.

The Apostle Paul echoes this idea in Romans 8:28, where he writes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Paul is saying that when we love God, we trust that He is working all things for our good, and so we obey His commands with confidence.

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The Importance of Love in Obedience

It is important to note that obedience without love is meaningless. 

If we obey God’s commands out of duty or obligation, but not out of love, then our obedience is hollow and empty. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were a perfect example of this. They followed God’s laws meticulously, but they did not have love in their hearts. Their obedience was legalistic and did not come from a place of love.

Paul emphasizes the importance of love in obedience in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, where he writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Our Love For God Looks Like Submission to God

The third aspect of love as obedience is that it involves a submission to God’s will. 

The concept of submission may seem outdated or even oppressive in our modern society that values individualism and personal autonomy. However, submission in the biblical sense is not about losing one’s identity or willpower, but rather about aligning oneself with the perfect will of God. 

In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul urges believers to have the same mindset as Christ, who humbled himself and became obedient to death on the cross. 

Jesus demonstrated the ultimate act of submission to the Father’s will, even though it meant suffering and sacrifice. As we follow Jesus’ example, we also submit to God’s will, even when it is difficult or goes against our own desires.

Love as obedience is not just about following rules or performing religious duties. 

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It is about having a relationship with God that is characterized by trust, surrender, and obedience. When we love God, we seek to know His will and follow it, not out of obligation or fear, but out of a desire to please Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

Conclusion

In conclusion, love and obedience are intimately connected in the Bible. 

Love without obedience is incomplete and shallow, while obedience without love is legalistic and empty. 

When we love God, we will obey His commands, follow His example, and submit to His will. This kind of love as obedience transforms us from the inside out, leading to a life that is pleasing to God and fulfilling to us. As Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

When we love God, we seek to know His will and follow it, not out of obligation or fear, but out of a desire to please Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

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