“Following the Instructions”
1 John 5:1-5
By Kendall Lowe
Any time my family gets together, one of our favorite things to do is to play board games. And not just the oldies you might know, like Monopoly, Uno, or Clue. No, my family enjoys a host of board games you may have never heard of. We like games that are just about fun and laughing out loud, and we like games that require heavy thinking and strategy. One of our favorite things is to open up a brand new game. When you unwrap the saran wrap and open the box, you take in the smell of fresh card stock and cardboard. Many of us will get excited about a new game, but then all of a sudden, some people lose interest because of one single aspect of the game: the rulebook. Some games, like Uno, can sum up their instructions in a couple paragraphs. My kind of games, however, require a pamphlet with a dozen or so pages of grueling instructions and rules. But for many people, when they see this thick rulebook come out, they are no longer interested in the game.
In all honesty, reading the rulebook before playing the game is one of the worst parts about playing. Once you have played the game for a while, you know the rules like the back of your hand, and you can play easily without even thinking about the details. But for many people, the more complicated the rules, the less enjoyable the game.
For many Christians, especially new Christians, the “rules” can be a deal breaker for their level of commitment to following Christ. We pick up this thick book called the Bible and we immediately start sweating. We look at this big book of rules and wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into, especially when we consider what the consequences might be if we break or misinterpret any of the instructions.
John, in his writing, doesn’t seem to see the instructions of God in this way. His statement in 1 John 5 is, “His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” Right before saying this he does say to his readers that love for God is keeping His commandments. This might be enough to make even the most devoted follower tense up. “If I have to follow ALL of these rules to love God, I’m not sure I can do it no matter how hard I try.” But John makes it clear that God’s commands are not burdensome or meant to weigh us down. When God began his covenant with the people of Israel, he pulled out a big instruction book for them to read and follow. But His Son makes it clear how to follow these rules. “Love the Lord your God… Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37-38)
Jesus never promised that obeying him would be easy. But the hard work and self-discipline of serving Christ is no burden to those who love him. I love playing board games, and so the rules are no big deal for me. I can easily follow them so that I can fully enjoy the experience of playing the game. God did not give us commands to weigh us down and stress us out. He gave them to us so that we can live life to the fullest. And if our load starts to feel heavy, we can always trust Christ to help us bear it.