“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26 (ESV)
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (ESV)
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 (ESV)
I was reading in Hosea the other night and one verse that stuck out to me was Hosea 6:6:
“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (NKJV)
The word mercy seemed a little strange in context to me, so I looked up another translation and it made a lot more sense:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (ESV)
I love this. I love that God is telling us in this verse that He does not desire us to just simply obey His law with no attachment in our spirits. Yes, God is just, so sometimes we need to obey Him whether we like it or not simply because we respect Him as our Heavenly Dad. Just as sometimes I need my son to obey me for no other reason than because I am his mother and he needs to obey. However, God is also our Father. More than obedience, He wants a relationship with His children, just as I desire a relationship with my son. I want his affection. I want his devotion.
The ideal situation would be for him to choose to obey me because he loves me so much and knows I want what is best for him. Obedience on its own? Empty. Love on its own? Satisfying down into my inner being. That is how God feels about us. He wanted his people to continue their religious rituals, but He expressed to them that that was not the important part. The important part was their steadfast love and devotion. He wanted them to fervently seek knowledge about God- to get to know Him.
I want to just take a moment to discuss a side note here. Can a Christian “just obey” without any love behind it? Well, let us take a look at this practically through a more tangible example. The connection I have with my son, being his mother, implies that there is a deep, foundation of love between us. Even if he isn’t “feeling” the love at the moment, the love connection from him being my child is what will make him obey me even if he doesn’t want to.
Therefore, no, I don’t believe that a Christian can obey in absence of love because being a Christian implies that there is love at the foundation of our Father-child relationship with the Lord. This is why trying to purify non-Believers before bringing them to Christ is so ineffective. They don’t love God. They are not His children. So, we are essentially saying to them, “Hey, come on over to my house. My Dad won’t let you do anything you want to do.” Salvation first. Obedience will follow if their faith is alive and true.
Back to the topic at hand. If this is all about love and putting aside “religiosity”, why did I write those verses about works at the top of this post? Because of Psalm 119. I love Psalm 119 because it is a glorious depiction of someone who loved God so much that he desired to follow God’s Law. He even went as far as to say multiple times in the Psalm that he loved God’s precepts. He desired the Law!
We always look at the Law as if it is some horrible curse created by the antagonist, God the Father, and abolished by the protagonist, Jesus. However, we are forgetting when discussing the New Covenant that They are One and the same. Jesus is God. God is Jesus. God doesn’t change. God’s nature doesn’t change. God’s heart is perfect and doesn’t change. So, what then, should be our reaction to the thought of “works”? As I have been reading through Psalm 119, I have been inspired and hope that I can act as the author- so in love with Jesus that I desire to do works for His Kingdom.
“And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.” Psalm 119:45 (ESV)
“For I find my delight in Your commandments, which I love.” Psalm 119:47 (ESV)
“Let Your mercy come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.” Psalm 119:77 (ESV)
I want to see God’s commandments as a blessing, not a curse needing to be abolished. I want to fall so desperately in love with Jesus that I gladly, without huffing and puffing, make my ways line up with His. Since His ways are the same as God’s since He is God, I want to seek out God’s heart and follow His will by working for Him. And the more I follow His desire from Hosea- the more I seek knowledge of Him- the more I want to make the sacrifices.
You see, God knows that if we follow religious rituals just for the sake of being religious, we won’t fall more and more in love with Him and want to know Him. However, if we seek to know Him and fall in love with Him, we will follow Biblical religious practices out of undying devotion and adoration for Him and His precepts.
God, give me a heart like the author of Psalm 119. Help me to love You so deeply that I love Your ways and Law, too, because they are of You. The blood covenant has given me a way to connect so easily to you and to seek out knowledge of you through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am undeniably grateful for that. I pray that as I seek You and find out more about You, your Blood washing over me would inspire me to seek out your will and Law, knowing that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Oh God, you are beautiful, just, unconditionally loving, forgiving, and mysterious. Teach me your ways. I want faith with works brought on by my undying love for you.
I want faith that is alive.