In John 14: 15 Jesus states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
We have been taught that the love of God is unconditional. That word “if” seems to place a condition.
Yes it does, but the condition is not on God’s love for us but on our ability to love God. Jesus states that true love of Him is tied to our keeping the commandments God has given to us.
We human beings are very good at rationalization. In fact, we are so good at it we that we believe our rationalization are what make up reality. We reason what we want and then believe this is the way it must be. We can get angry at other people and then blame them for our anger. We reason they made us angry. No, we respond to a stimulus in ourselves and decide to be angry. The creation of anger is all our own. A person does something and we respond with sadness. We say they made us sad by their actions or inactions. No, we chose to respond out of our reason with a reaction of sadness. When we say we love God are we responding with an emotion made of our reason, our rationalizing that we “love” God? Have we set the criteria for what constitutes love? What role does God have in this?
God’s commandments set up the foundation for true reality. God’s commandments come out of God’s very nature. God is love. God sets the standard. God’s commandments set the standard for behavior within reality. God states that love is defined within the actions God has determined. If we are to love then we must conform to this reality. There is no room for our rationalizations within this reality, thus the condition, “if you love me.”
In our mortal state, corrupted by our nature, our rationalizations are not a reliable standard by which to judge what is true or real. This is why God must give us the gift of grace to be able to respond to God and to come to understand what truth is. The command to love the Lord our God is a command to action. This action is not determined by our reason but by God’s revelation. Without our accepting this we are caught in a cycle of reasoning that is centered in deception. Grace opens us up to the chance to break out of the cycle of human rationalization into the reality that God desires for us to know. In responding to grace we can keep the commandments God gives to us. Grace reveals to us this reality and gives us the ability to take action in accord with it. It also gives us a basis for self reflection on how we are doing. We can look at our lives and the commandments God gives and see if they are in sync. In this way we can know what real love is.
Loving God takes a commitment on our part. It is a duty that becomes a delight. This is a hard task in our world that places so much emphasis on our deciding what we want rather than discovering what we really need. So if we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, and might we need to understand we can only do this IF we keep God’s commandments.