I often hear believers quote Jesus assuredly: “If you love me, keep my commands,” as John records him saying. It seems that more often than not, though, what they mean is “If you loved Jesus, you would be keeping all of his commands like I am, and you clearly aren’t.”
I’ve personally found the subject of Jesus’ commands a rewarding study. After all, if the Bible says loving Jesus means keeping his commands, I think it has to be pretty important to know what his commands are.
This is an exercise everyone should try. Take out a pen and paper (or open up a Word file) and list all of the things you think of when you think of Jesus’ commands. This is just brainstorming right now, so don’t second guess yourself and slow your thought process down. Go with what whatever you think of. You can always verify it later.
You may have thought of some things like the traditional church of Christ “five acts of worship:” singing, praying, giving, the Lord’s Supper, and preaching (or is being preached to the supposed command?). That’s fine. Write them down on this list. Is personal work, or attending fellowship, or studying for class, or taking notes in class, or making a comment in class, or wearing your nicest clothes at church on the list? Now continue brainstorming all the things you can think of that you believe Jesus has commanded you.
Now comes the hard part. Take another sheet of paper, or open another Word file, and think more seriously about this question. Write down only the actual commands of Jesus from your first list that can be backed up with book, chapter, and verse. And by “actual commands,” I mean that. Only list the actual commands that Jesus himself gave us. It’s important not to clutter your list with things that are not truly commands, or were not actually commanded by Jesus.
I understand the attraction of wanting to lump the traditional church of Christ things like “command, example, and necessary inference” altogether in one list, but you can do that another time. If you want to understand what it means to love Jesus, first understand what his actual commands are, without introducing human reasoning.
Obviously, some of these commands were directed to his apostles or disciples. That’s fine. Make a note of who was directly commanded in that context. This could take some time, but it is worth the thought experiment. If loving Jesus means following all of his commands, then frankly, it’s worth spending whatever time is necessary investigating what they are. You might be surprised by what you find.
Feel free to share your observations in the comments.
P.s. – If you want to cheat, here are some other people’s attempts to formulate a list of Jesus’ commands: List 1 | List 2. If you want to cheat some more and understand some of my thinking on Jesus’ commands, here are a couple of articles I’ve written about them: Article 1 | Article 2.