As a former Pharisee (someone self-righteous, prideful in their obedience to follow God’s commands), I would read passages like:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:36-39, NIV)
then excuse my lack of love. I rationalized, “Love is a choice, not a feeling. Therefore, when I do all of my wonderful deeds, I am being loving.” It didn’t matter that my motives were to please people, make myself feel good, or to bribe God into doing what I wanted.
I was more comfortable with the “do not commands”—don’t lie, cheat, or steal—than a “do command” like:
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11, ESV)
Fortunately, God cared about me too much to let me stay deceived. He showed me my sinful heart. I saw my ego was a false front covering my wickedness. When my facade cracked, my hope disintegrated. I turned, broken and helpless, to God. Expecting a reprimand and rejection, I found God to be gentle and loving. I finally realized the true nature of God: unconditional love.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4: 8, ESV)
His love didn’t waver when I wasn’t the most obedient rule follower in the room. Feeling accepted, I stopped checking out the competition. I quit judging people by my self-righteous standards, and started loving them as they were. I was less selfish. I became more authentic and more comfortable in my own skin.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16, NIV)
I am not sure if I am as obedient as I was when a Pharisee, because I lost my score card. I do know that loving God without trying to manipulate Him has transformed me. When I was self-righteous, I was angry, insecure and fearful. Now I have joy, peace, hope and faith. Love is way superior to obedience.
- If you would like further explanation of my transformation or want to share your story of God’s love, please comment below.
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