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Is Jesus an Emotional Manipulator?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

There are a few verses in the Bible that have troubled me for a long time. Here’s one of them.

“When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (John 15:10, NLT)

It almost sounds like Jesus is being emotionally manipulative, “If you really loved me you’d do what I said.” Fortunately, that’s not what’s going on here.

If you’re like me, this is what you do: You eagerly sign whatever documents convince the lawyers you won’t go into the mountain range. You live contentedly on the ranch, amazed at its beauty and wonder. This lasts about a week. Then you grab your tent and head for the hills. It’s not that you don’t like the ranch, but you think you’ve experienced all it has to offer. In the end you spend all your time on one small corner of the ranch, taking daily forays into the forbidden mountains.

The ranch represents God’s commands. Obeying God and living within his commands is like living on the ranch. It’s beautiful and incredible. But we never really explore it all. Instead, we tend to camp out on one small corner and live as much of our lives as we dare exploring the sin that God has forbidden. And then we wonder why we don’t experience God’s love, power, and joy in our lives! When we obey Christ’s commandments, when we live on the ranch, we experience the richness he designed us for. When we leave, we don’t, and we open ourselves and those we love to all kinds of danger and trouble. A life well spent is spent within God’s framework.

Our lives are built on twin truths: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). As we recognize our reliance on Jesus we are motivated to soak in Scripture and pray in light of God’s promises. Doing so increases our belief in his love for us which inspires us to live within the framework of his commands. This in turn drives us to recognize our reliance on Jesus and the wonderful cycle begins again. And each time it starts we experience greater intimacy with Christ, increased amounts of fruit, and an expanded capacity for his joy.


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