If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (NRSV)
When we say we love someone or something, the meaning of ‘love’ may not be clear. I may love chocolate and love justice and love a friend, but each love will be somehow different. I may say I love someone when all I am doing is saying I love what they do for me. Or I may love someone and express it so that I am always acting and speaking in their best interests.
Love and loving are elusive despite how regularly we use the words. When we are commanded to love God, we sense there is more to it than feeling warmly grateful to him. We certainly don’t think it is just a case of our loving how he blesses us. There is more to it than that.
Jesus puts it quite bluntly. Loving him involves obedience. Doing what he says, living out his teachings. It is not enough to have ‘warm fuzzies’ or to mouth words of praise to him in the company of others. Nothing at all wrong with genuine praise and deep feelings, but love goes beyond these. There is a sharp edge to faith.
The uncomfortable test of our love for Jesus is how intent we are on obeying him. If that sounds a bit hard and unfeeling, so be it. Love is not simply practical obedience, but without some attempt at practical obedience we cannot claim to truly love him.
Jesus shows his love for us by doing the Father’s will not by merely being sympathetic to our plight. The ultimate shape of love is not some pink or red heart, but a cross.