In my younger years, I viewed the commands of God as burdensome. I thought of God’s law as an exhaustive list of spiritual “dos” and “don’ts,” of “shall nots” and “should nots” to which I could never measure up. I failed to love God with my whole heart, as I viewed God primarily as a divine rule-giver and judge. Moreover, I fell short in loving my neighbor as myself and always possessed a bit of a "what’s-in-it-for-me?” mentality. In both regards, my love was always tainted with selfishness and undermined by fear, intolerance, and indifference.
As I grew in faith, my perspective concerning God’s law changed. As I came to understand God’s unconditional mercy, I began to see God’s commands as liberating. Far from being burdensome, I discovered—as today’s reading says—that loving God means loving God’s commands. I learned that God is not against me and that even when I fail to obey God, there is abundant grace available to me.
Psalm 1 speaks of the person “whose delight is in the law of the LORD, who meditates on his law day and night” (v. 2, NIV). This psalm says that the person who delights in God’s law is “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither . . . whatever they do prospers” (v. 3, NIV).
I want to be like that water-fed tree. I want the fruit of good deeds to grow in abundance in my life. I want the good things I do to prosper. And so I meditate on God’s rules for right living. I study God's ways and seek to obey God's commands. I am far from perfect in my obedience, but I am beginning to delight in God’s law. I have learned that it is not burdensome, and that God’s grace is amazing!
God, thank you for giving us rules to live by and for forgiving us when we fail. May we learn to truly delight in your law. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Acts passage continues to tell the story of the advance of the gospel. The Holy Spirit falls on a group of Gentiles. They believe and are baptized, thus showing God’s inclusion of all peoples in the plan of salvation. Psalm 98 is a simple declaration of praise. All creation will sing to and rejoice in the Lord. The two passages from John are linked by their emphasis on the relationship between love and obedience. We do not follow God’s commandments in order to make God love us. On the contrary, because God has first loved us and we love God in return, we follow God’s teachings. Jesus provides the model for us, being obedient to his Father out of love.
Read Acts 10:44-48. When has the Spirit of God brought you to a new understanding?
Read Psalm 98. Where have you encountered “a joyful noise” in creation? How do you make a joyful noise in praise of God?
Read 1 John 5:1-6. When have you considered God’s commands as burdensome? When have you found them freeing?
Read John 15:9-17. Are you accustomed to thinking of your relationship with Jesus as a mutual friendship? If so, what does it mean to you to be Jesus’ friend?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.