By José Santana
There were times growing up when it just felt like there were so many rules that I had to follow in order to be Christian.
At some points, I’d become encumbered by the rules of faith.
I wasn’t overly scrupulous, and the questions were not debilitating to my faith, but I just wanted to be a good person. I wanted God and my parents to look at me with loving and proud eyes, and the only way I knew to make them proud was to follow their rules.
The older I became, the harder the rules became to follow
but looking back I can’t help but think that I was only seeing half of the picture. As an adolescent I loved to skateboard. However, my mom would not let me go out further than two blocks from our house. None of my other friends had such a restriction. They went out and explored our neighborhood freely, and I can remember myself each time having to decide if I would disobey my parents and try to cover up my mischief, or obey them because I knew they cared about me.
In chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
This passage reveals a certain beauty in obedience.
It conveys respect and honor, but I often forget that it also conveys love. Listening to my parents when they told me I could not go off on my own skateboarding around town—even though I did not understand why—was a humbling act of obedience that conveyed my love for them.
We see this example in Christ Himself. His obedience on the cross was Him conveying His love for the Father.
The greatest act of love that I will ever know was an act of obedience.
The connection Christ makes between obedience and love enlivens the reality that the two cannot be separated. It goes both ways—love demands obedience, and obedience requires love.
The obedient person loves precisely because he is loved.
As an adult, the rules have not gotten easier. In fact, the questions I ask have become increasingly more difficult to answer. But it is this realization, that my obedience displays—and even requires—my love for God, that allows me to see that the
rules are not a commodity that make me a better person in the eyes of God, but a vehicle for growing to love Him more deeply.
Each time I examined my decision to obey or disobey my parents, it was my love for them, and the love for me that they always ensured I felt, that allowed me to trust them. Similarly, it is Christ’s act of loving us unto death that encourages me to remain faithful, despite the difficulties such a task presents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
José Santana is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, currently pursuing a Master's in Theological Studies at the University of Dayton. After working for several years in marketing and sports, his passion for theology and ministry brought him back to school to study and work as a Graduate Assistant in Campus Ministry. He most enjoys watching sports, playing basketball, traveling, and enjoying good food in the company of friends.