Love and Obey
Mother’ s Day
Acts 10:44-48, 1 John 5:1-6, John 15:9-17
Let us pray: Gracious and loving God may your light guide our footsteps along the pathway of life. May your hand rest upon us and your love always enfold us, and so lead us onwards to know and love you and others better. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Welcome on this Mother’s Day. I can’t imagine a better lesson for Mother’s Day than one that begins like this: Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love . . . “If anyone loves me, they will obey . . .” That’s what Jesus is saying to us in our Gospel for today
Obedience is important to our spiritual lives. However, obedience is also an important part of helping a family run smoothly.
A professor was giving a lecture on company slogans and was asking his students if they were familiar with them.
“Joe,” he asked, “which company has the slogan, FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES?”
Joe answered with the correct airline.
“Brenda, can you tell me which company has the slogan, DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT?”
Brenda answered quickly with the correct credit card company.
“Now John, tell me which company bears the slogan, JUST DO IT?”
“That’s easy,” John answered, “It’s my Mom.”
The shoe company surely stole their motto from someone’s Mom: “JUST DO IT?” Why? “BECAUSE I SAID SO!”
There is an undeniable link between love and obedience. We can threaten a child to be obedient. We can punish an act of willful defiance. But the only way our children will take up the values we want for them will be if they know they are connected to us by a bond of love that cannot be broken. So it is in our relationship with God.
It is important that we obey God’s commands. Let’s begin there: Obey God’s commands. That sounds obvious, but this is a lost teaching in our day. We have become a permissive society, a “do your own thing” society. The lines between right and wrong have become blurred. We make our own morality as we go along. People who say they believe in God’s commandments seem to have increasing difficulty applying those standards to their daily lives. Some people have a particularly hard time with obedience.
Tommy Nelson, in his book, The 12 Essentials of Godly Success, tells of being a chaplain of a high school football team in the 1970s. This was in Texas where football is a religion. To be a great football player in Texas means you are extra special.
Nelson says that on the team on which he served as chaplain was a young man who was the finest high school football player he has ever seen. This young man was one of only three athletes in the history of Texas to be a three time high school all-American. When he was ready to graduate, this young man had his choice of colleges. He picked a school whose previous running back was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The question was not whether this young man would be good, but whether he himself was going to win the Heisman.
After the young man made his decision, Nelson asked the young man’s high school coach, “What do you think? Will he win the Heisman someday?”
The coach replied, “He’ll never carry the ball in college.”
Nelson was shocked. “What do you mean?” he demanded.
The coach told him this young man had a serious character flaw that would eventually disqualify him. He knew his college coaches would see it right away, and that would be the end of his career.
Well, the coach was right. The young man ended up attending four different colleges – he quit two and was kicked out of two. He finished without a degree. As the coach predicted, he never made it as a college player.
What was the character flaw that the coach saw? “He cannot submit to authority,” the coach said. “He cannot submit to his parents. He cannot submit to an employer. He cannot submit to a teacher.” The coach told Nelson, “We’ve carried him along for the sake of the ball club. But I assure you, he will not submit to his college coaches. His football career is done.”
Many of us are offended by the notion of obedience. We want to be the captain of our own ship, but obedience is an important trait of a successful life, particularly obedience to God. God is a God of abundant grace, but that does not mean God does not have expectations for us. The Scriptures are full not only of God’s promises, but also of God’s instructions for how we are to live our lives. Obedience to those instructions is vitally important.
Christ left behind his followers. He had certain expectations he wants us to meet. “If anyone loves me,” says our Lord, “they will obey my teaching . . .” In the same way that a family cannot function without some measure of discipline, we cannot serve Christ unless we exercise discipline over our spiritual lives. We are to obey Christ’s commands. We are to love our neighbor. We are to keep the Commandments. We are to help the poor. We are to welcome the stranger. We are to forgive those who wrong us, pray for those who insult us. Just because we are saved by grace does not mean there are not instructions for how we are to live. We are to obey God.
Our obedience grows out of our love for God. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching . . .” This is not blind obedience to a heartless law. Neither is it a set of meaningless rituals that we are required to adhere to. Christ did not tell us to park our brains at the door. We are not robots. Neither are we clueless children.
Christ’s teachings were given to us out of God’s love for us. It’s appropriate on this special day that we compare God’s love to that of a mother who loves her child. Young people, you know that when your mother gives you a rule to follow, even one as bland as “Don’t sit too close to the TV . . .” or “Be sure to put a jacket on . . .” or “Be home by midnight . . .” you know down in your heart, she’s doing it out of love. You are at the very center of her world and she wants you to be safe. She wants you to be happy. She knows this is a dangerous world. There are some things that might bring us a few moments happiness that in the long run of life can spell ruin for us. She’s not really being mean. Overly protective, perhaps, but not mean. And, yes, Moms are human. They make mistakes, but 99% of the time, they make those mistakes in love. They really want your well-being.
Author, speaker and sports enthusiast Pat Williams, in his book A Lifetime of Success, gives one of the best examples I know of a mother’s love.
He tells of attending a very special Atlanta Braves’ baseball home opener on April 8, 1974. It was a night game against the Dodgers and it was a complete sellout. Williams looked around to see that, seated immediately behind him was singer Pearl Bailey. Up at the plate: the immortal Henry Aaron. On the line: Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. Aaron had tied the record and tonight he was aiming to break it.
Understand this was over 40 years ago. An African American player was about to topple the great Babe Ruth and a lot of people in the country didn’t like it. Aaron got a lot of mail that year more than 930,000 letters in all, far more than any other person in the country. Most were fan letters but about 100,000 of them were hate letters, some containing death threats.
Williams says he was on the edge of his seat when Dodgers pitcher Al Downing hurled the ball toward the plate. Aaron swung and connected. The crack of his bat echoed through the stands. The ball was gone. Home run. Babe Ruth’s record was shattered. The ballpark went nuts.
“As Aaron rounded second base,” says Williams, “a couple of teenagers both white jumped over the retaining wall and ran onto the field, chasing Aaron. For a moment, no one knew what they had in mind, but then it became clear: they were celebrating and cheering Aaron on. As Aaron crossed the plate, the dugout emptied as the Braves streamed onto the field to surround him, cheering and whooping it up. But amid all those ballplayers around Aaron was a short, sixty-eight year old black woman. She latched onto Aaron and wouldn’t let go of him.
“Henry Aaron turned and said to her, ‘Mom! What are you doing here?’
“‘Baby,’ said the mother of the new home run king, ‘if they’re gonna get you,’ (thinking of the death threats Aaron had received) ‘they’ve gotta get me first!’”
That is love only a mother could have for her child. “If they’re gonna get you, they’ve gotta get me first!” It is, however, only a pale reflection of the love God has for each of us. Do you really think that God would give us any command that was not for our best good? “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him . . .”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, give us the grace to bring up our children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord. Help us all to be an example of virtue. Give our children grace and gifts of the Spirit so they will profit from the guidance we give them. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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