This is Not Burdensome
1John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Real, genuine belief in Jesus, transforms the world. What begins as belief in the Messiah becomes filled with God’s love for the world. Jesus, God’s son, became human so that we, too, could become children of God, born out of the Father’s deep love for us. Our response to that love drives us to a deeper relationship with our Father, one in which we desire to follow his commandments. All of a sudden we are no longer following a list of rules but we live out the commandments because they become natural. When we are in Christ, we live a life of love. This holy love breeds a faith that can conquer the world because it will always lead to Jesus, God’s son. While this understanding may seem heavy, it is not burdensome for it simply flows from a heart overflowing with love.
I grew up in a tradition with lots of rules about how we were to live our lives. I must confess that at times it seemed burdensome and I would wish that I didn’t seem so odd compared to others. I didn’t go to movies and I didn’t go to dances and people would make fun of me for what I didn’t do. My mother sent a note to school when we were square dancing in gym class, telling them I could not participate. As I sat on the floor watching the other students I remembering wondering what was wrong with what they were doing. Somewhere along the way we had mixed up love for God with legalism and it had become burdensome.
As I’ve grown, read and studied more about my faith I have come to some different conclusions. The admonition against movies was changed in our tradition to a broader concern regarding the influence of media on our lives. When I love God with all my heart and want to live as the Father’s child, I will want to please him. There are movies I won’t watch. There are sites I won’t go to on the internet. And this is not burdensome because it comes from my relationship with Christ. I would feel exceedingly uncomfortable watching certain things because the love of Christ wouldn’t take me there — and I wouldn’t want to take Christ there either. No longer am I motivated by a rule, but I am motivated by my relationship with Christ and it’s his holy love which transforms me, leads me and guides me.
I returned home from Africa a week ago today. While there we had incredible times of worship with our young leaders from across the continent. Dancing is a normal part of the worship of Christ in that culture. As we have become a global church we have recognized that there are cultural dances which are beautiful and are born out of our love for Christ. Again, the barriers have come down and the lists have changed as we embrace our love for the Messiah and expressions of that love which vary around the globe.
Those first century Jewish Christians had been raised in a religious environment which led to strict interpretations of the law and the commandments. The love of God released in the birth of the Messiah transformed the hearts of God’s people and suddenly living by the commandments became a response to holy love. Living as God’s holy people was no longer burdensome, but a joy.
If we believe that following Jesus is a burden because it makes us seem odd, then maybe we haven’t allowed ourselves to fall deeply in love with our Savior. We are not called into a rigid and restrictive life of legalism. We are invited to fall in love with the Messiah; to open our hearts to the holy love found within the Trinity. In this way we are born of God, and God’s love draws us into kingdom living because our desires are for him, and him alone. This becomes the victory which conquers the world — and it is not burdensome.
Lord, thank you for your incredible love. Please help me to relax and live in that love. Amen.