I’ve heard this with relationships. “If you love me, you’ll go get me such-and-such from the store,” or “If you love me, you’ll change this.” The implication is that love for the other person is stronger than one’s attachment to one’s own comfort and preferences.
And there is some truth in this, for Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” and in John 14:23, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word which you hear isn’t mine, but the Father’s who sent me.”
And 1 John 3:16-18 says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? My little children, let’s not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.”
So one could argue that, because we love others, we should listen to them when they say, “If you love me, you’ll do this for me,” right?
Well, not necessarily. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So Jesus is the model for loving others.
But how did Jesus love his disciples?
- He cared for them. When they returned from their first ministry excursion on their own, He took them apart and withdrew to a deserted place (Luke 9:10). After He rose from the dead, He made breakfast for them (John 21:12-13). He washed their feet, taking on the role of a servant and instructing them to thus serve each other (John 13:3-16).
- He loved them through their shortcomings. When they doubted, He showed them what they needed to believe (John 20:24-29). Thomas hadn’t been there when Jesus appeared to the others, and he said he wouldn’t believe Jesus was alive unless “I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side” (verse 25). So when Jesus appeared before them all, eight days later, he “said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don’t be unbelieving, but believing.'” He didn’t turn him out or scold him. He just did what He could to help Thomas believe.
And throughout His time with His disciples, He loved them through their questions, their struggles, and their shortcomings. When they wanted to burn down cities (Luke 9:54-55) or be put in places of distinction in His kingdom (Mark 10:35-40), He corrected them and rebuked them, but He didn’t send them away. He did all He could to help them understand what He was doing and who He was.
- He was open with them. He wept before them and ate with them. He shared His plans and what God had called Him to do, and He elaborated His parables to them. When Jesus heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed, He took his disciples and withdrew to a secluded place. He spent some of His time alone, but He also spent time with them (Matthew 14). He wasn’t secretive and exclusive with them, but open and transparent, letting them know His “true self,” in good and bad times.
- He followed God first. When He told his disciples about God’s plan for Him–that He was going to die on the cross–Peter objected and said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” And Jesus turned and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23).
When some of Jesus’ disciples wanted to leave, He let them go. He wouldn’t change who He was and what He was teaching just to make them stay or to make them happy (John 6:57-71). He was on earth to do what the Father had sent Him to do, and He wasn’t going to let His love for His disciples alter that.
So clearly, when someone else sets up a different plan for our life that doesn’t what God is saying, we are to follow God, and not our loved ones. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to “Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.” The implication is that we are to follow others only when they are leading and encouraging us towards God. When this stops and the paths diverge, we are to follow God instead of anyone else.
Yet there may be moments of “because I love you, I’ll do this” in our lives. We may choose to share things when we don’t have to. We may have to be patient, loving others through their shortcomings, lack of understanding, and doubts. And there may be things we do to serve them–things that are uncomfortable or plain old work–but there must be boundaries to where God’s plan for us is first. Not our parents’, not our siblings’, and not our spouse’s plan can supersede God direction in our lives.
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren