If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.
This is where my inner voice says: “Okay! Get out your pencils because the rules are coming. Tell me what to do and watch my discipline.” The problem with this thought pattern is that is places the action of my salvation on me. I follow the rules, I stay in Jesus’ love.
Jesus isn’t done, though. He doesn’t leave us to wonder what He means by commands. In verse 12 He clarifies.
This is my command: love one another as I have loved you.
This is quite different than what I expected (and maybe wanted). Jesus doesn’t command our behavior; he commands our heart. Our heart, not our will, governs our behavior. If we love, then our actions will follow Jesus’ expectations for our interactions with others. Anger, selfishness, and conflict do not arise out of love.
This focus on loving others and letting that dictate behavior is how Jesus completed the law. It is how we escape the bondage of rule-based behavior and gain freedom in Christ’s love. Paul addresses this dilemma so eloquently and with such wisdom in Romans 8. I include verses 1-8 here for your edification. There is nothing more I can add.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.