"Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love them and show myself to them."
When I teach seventh grade, I set high expectations for my students, both in the academic and behavioral arenas. I know there will always be some children who never meet either one, but every day, I'm determined to try my best by encouraging them individually, and letting them know I genuinely care for each one of them.
The students, by and large, strive to achieve excellence. But there are always the exceptions: Those children, who no matter what effort is made on my part, refuse to stay the course. In fact, they seem to reap an unhealthy satisfaction in making life difficult for their teachers.
One young man, in particular, floats to the surface of my memories; we'll call him "Max." Max never walks into the classroom, he bounces in, chattering and jostling his fellow students. Finding his seat is a daily challenge. Focusing on the topic at hand is never high on his priority list. Entertaining his classmates with silly faces, and turning around to talk to the person behind him? That's Max's M.O.!
Needless to say, Max demands much of my attention, which detracts from the moments I could be interacting with my other students. I must admit, there are times I find myself wishing Max would miss a day of school.
He never does . . .
One day, when it seems as though I've visited Max's desk for the umpteenth time to quietly correct him, he devises a new tactic. As I'm moving down the row to help another student, Max calls out, "I love you, Mrs. Orlando!" Of course, the entire class dissolves into hilarity, and it takes everything I have inside me to settle them down in the calmest way I can muster.
The dismissal bell rings. "Max!" I say sternly as he scrambles for the door. "Come here a minute, please."
Reluctantly, Max approaches my desk. I detect a slight flush rising on his cheeks. Could he actually be feeling embarrassed, or is he fearful I will be calling his parents tonight? "What is it, Mrs. Orlando?" Max asks. There is definitely a quaver of uncertainty in his voice.
"It's about what you blurted out in class today," I tell him. "Calling out 'I love you, Mrs. Orlando' right after I had refocused you on your work, and disrupting the entire class. That is inappropriate and unacceptable."
"But I do love you, Mrs. Orlando!" Max adamantly insists.
"Look at me," I say, locking my gaze on his. "Max, if you really loved me, you would obey me."
In Chapter Seven of his book, The Discipline of Grace, author, Larry Bridges, states: "If we are to love God with all our heart and soul and mind, and if obedience is a major part of such love, then it follows that we are to obey Him with all our heart and soul and mind. We are to put everything we have into obedience to Him."
Are we, then, as professing Christians, merely giving God lip-service when we declare our love for Him, or are we submitting all that we have and are to Him in complete obedience to His will? Are we, like Max, declaring one thing, yet doing another that in no way reflects true love for the Lord?
May we all pause today, and reflect intently upon where we stand on the obedience scale when it comes to Jesus' commandments.
For the next six weeks, I am participating in a study of Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace. It is led by fellow Christian bloggers, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, who invite you to read the book along with us. Tune in next Wednesday when I will be writing a reflection on Chapter Eight.