I grew up being a perfectionist. Making a mistake was the end of the world. Oh, how I bawled when I got into trouble! I was crushed at the slightest mistake. Even some incidents when I really hadn’t done anything morally wrong sent me into distress.
One such incident took place in my hometown of Broken Bow, Nebraska where I got my driver’s license. My Father, naturally, was my coach. Timid little me would crawl into our full-sized van and drive around the streets of our tiny farm town. Unfortunately, it wasn’t without its unusual streets. Our house was built on the edge of a hill. On one particular driving lesson, I hadn’t quite mastered how soon I should put on my breaks for certain stops. Coming down that hill, I turned into our driveway at a speed just a tad too fast. Crash! I ran into Dad’s newly built garbage can corral. Dad calmly got out to survey the damage and I fled to my bedroom in tears. A few minutes later Dad appeared to comfort me. His laid back self didn’t think it was a big deal. In fact, I think he was rather baffled why I didn’t consider a simple apology sufficient.
My first problem was that my value was found in my performance, not in the value God placed on me. As the years went by, though, doing right started to become a list of rules that I needed to follow in order to be right with God. A repentant heart and simple confession didn’t seem to be enough to get over my mistake. The pressure of always doing right officially set in.
It’s so easy to get caught in the middle of that vicious list of “dos” and “don’ts.” It’s stressful, to say the least. It’s a constant focus on behavior, rather than on the Person who gave us the instructions. It becomes a burden, a chore. The motivation is to follow law, rather than enjoying the journey of being a born-again child of God. Surely God has a better way!
The closer I get to Jesus I’m discovering how love and behavior go hand in hand. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” Love. We use the word loosely in this world, but Jesus’ whole mission to the world was based on that word. He loved us so much that He found a way to redeem us from the sins that kept us separated from God. Laying down His life stopped being a chore when He thought of the reward that lay before Him. (John 15:13; John 3:16)
Rather than do what we must do out of obligation, Jesus is asking us to do it out of a heart of love for Him. That is the greatest, purest motivation anyone could have when serving Jesus. Our love for Him is birthed from the sacrifice He made because He first loved us (I John 4:19), and is followed by a joyful commitment to His Lordship. A must do develops into a want to.
When thinking about the Ten Commandments and all the other Biblical instructions, we have the challenge to look at them through the eyes of love rather than obligation. What once seemed to be a list of legalistic law can now be God’s guidelines of love that leads our lives. With every act of obedience and every good deed done, we can honestly say we did it all for the sake of love.