(April 23) "Is Obeying the Lord a Burden?" -- meditation on 1 John 5:3
1 John 5:3 says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
Let's consider this statement. This section of Scripture is clear and says that we display our love for God, in part, by keeping the commandments He has given us. That is simple enough. What seems, perhaps, a stretch for some is the added clarification that the commandments we keep are not burdensome.
Many people drag themselves to church even though they have little desire to be there. Countless men and women will force themselves to carve out a few minutes to read the Bible even though, in reality, they had much rather be watching television or surfing the internet. And the whole idea of returning evil with kindness or turning the other cheek? Well, these commandments at first glance seem to be quite cumbersome.
What does John have in mind then when he declares that following the law of God is not a burden? The explanation of the second sentence in 1 John 5:3 (that the commandments are not burdensome) is found in the first sentence of the verse. "For this is the LOVE of God..." In fact, in the opening verses of 1 John 5, the word "love" is used five times in the first three verses: "everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him...by this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."
Now, we can see it. The connection is unmistakable. It is a love for God that makes His commands not burdensome. When people who do not truly love God seek to obey His commandments -- as a means of earning salvation -- those commandments are exhausting. Yet, when a person has been born again and the heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh, everything changes. That which was a burden becomes a blessing. What used to be a drudge is now a delight.
Anytime you serve someone you love, the feelings are different. For example, think about Christmas for a moment. I love getting gifts for my wife and children at Christmas time. I put a lot of time into thinking of what I will get for them. I shop, eventually buy, and even wrap. Although I am a terrible wrapper, it is a labor of love. I enjoy the entire process. It takes time, it costs money, and I struggle through a lot of lines and congested parking lots. Yet, I love it. I love the work because I love the people. The process is not burdensome (I realize for some reading this, the entire process of shopping IS burdensome, but this is my story!).
If, however, someone were to call me and ask me to do the Christmas shopping for their family, I can assure you it would seem burdensome to me. The lines would become a nuisance. The parking lot would become an annoyance. And the wrapping...well, that would stomp out the Christmas spirit altogether.
The same activities (in this case, shopping, buying, and wrapping) can be either a blessing or a burden. The difference is love. When I do these things out of love, as a result of enjoying a special relationship with someone in my family, I enjoy it.
And so it is with the commandments of God. When you serve the Lord and obey His commandments out of a love relationship you have with Him, your heart finds delight in doing them. Consider the words of James Montgomery Boice who said, "The life of God within makes obedience to the commands possible. The love the Christian has for God makes the obedience desirable."
If your spiritual life is a constant matter of feeling forced to continually do things you do not desire to do, it may be because you have taken your eyes off of the One we serve. When we love God, we desire to serve people. When we serve people, we desire to point them to the Lord. And as we honor and obey the Word of God out of a heart that loves Him above all else, the obedience we offer unto Him is not burdensome.