Maybe you’ve heard the story of the woman whose husband kept a list. This list consisted of twenty-five things that he wanted her to do so that she would be a good wife. Each day he took out the list and he checked off the things that she had completed to his satisfaction. Cooking-check! Cleaning-check! Taking care of the kids-check! At the end of the day, he would let her know how she scored: Twenty-three out of twenty-five, Twenty-one out of twenty-five, etc. This woman was absolutely miserable! It wasn’t that the things on this list weren’t important. On the contrary, they were both important and necessary. She just had higher hopes for her marriage relationship. She was miserable because she didn’t marry to be tied to a checklist.
After several years of marriage, the husband died. The woman felt that a weight had been lifted from her shoulders because she had been enslaved for years. She had been forced to serve and hating every minute of it, even though the items on her husband’s checklist weren’t innately bad.
Two years later, this same woman fell in love with a new guy. He was a man who had no lists! He told this woman that all he wanted to do was to love her. He wanted her to wake up in the morning knowing that he loved her. In the middle of the day, he wanted to be able to call and remind her that he loved her. At night, before they went to bed, he wanted to reassure her that he loved her. He wanted his love for her to be her every waking thought of her day. He wanted her to know his love, not his lists.
One day she was cleaning the house. She opened up a drawer and saw a piece of paper. It was the list from her first husband. She began to giggle when she realized that everything written down, all twenty-five items, were happening effortlessly in her new marriage. Everything she had hated being forced to do by the first husband, she was doing for the second husband – and loving it! All that the second husband had was love. It brought joy to this woman, to her home, and all that she did for it. She was overpowered by love.
This old story reminds me of the contrast between the old covenant law and the new covenant in Christ. The laws themselves weren’t bad (on the contrary, they existed to teach God’s people to be completely dependent on Him while improving their quality of life in the process cf. Deuteronomy 6:1ff), but the new covenant is just so much better! Concerning obedience to His commandments, Jesus taught that: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV) Consider these words that the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia contrasting the two covenants:
“But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.’ So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’ This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, ‘It is through obeying the law that a person has life.’
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10-14 NLT)
The Bible is not just one big “To-Do List.” But when we really love our God (and realize how incredible His love is for us cf. Romans 5:8) obedience is something that we strive for.