I didn’t want a hamster.
I really didn’t. But, my three daughters and my wife wanted a hamster, and the combined power of their wills is stronger than mine. So, now I have a hamster, and I’ll have a hamster I don’t want, a hamster nobody needs, running loudly on a hamster wheel in the middle of the night, until the Lord decides to take him home. Fortunately, Poe, the hamster, has a least taught me something about obeying Jesus and finding joy and caring for the people in my small group community. I’ll explain.
First, we need to remember that Jesus gave us commands to follow.
“Love the Lord.” (Matthew 22:37)
“Love your neighbor.” (Matthew 22:39)
“Love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44)
“Pray.” (Matthew 6:9)
“Fast.” (Matthew 6:16)
“Store up treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20)
“Don’t worry.” (Matthew 6:25)
“Don’t sin.” (Matthew 5:29)
“Make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)
…and many more.
Jesus also gave us each other to help us follow His commands.
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works…” (Hebrews 10:24)
“Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another…” (Colossians 3:16)
“Confess your sins to one another…” (James 5:16)
Jesus clearly has commands for us, and one of those commands is that we help each other keep those commands. However, we’ve likely all been in small groups with people who regularly confess sin while they regularly keep sinning. They keep showing up while they keep disobeying. We’ve also probably been in groups that never even talk about obedience. Groups that never broach the subject of lining up our lives with the commands of God.
And I get that. It’s possible we don’t love the concept of commands. “Jesus saves” sometimes sounds better than “Jesus commands.” But, Jesus and Poe would have us know that if we think it’s weird that Jesus gives commands, we really don’t understand who He is. He is not only the Master of the world whose commands are logical, He is the sacrifice for our sin whose commands are loving.
To help us see this, let’s learn a new word. Jesus said this in Matthew 28:20: “… Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”
The word for “observe” there in the Greek is the word “tereo.” It literally means “to guard” or “to hold fast.” We are to “tereo” the commands of Jesus. Hold on to, cling to, the commands of Jesus. Why would we do that?
Here’s where my hamster comes in.
This is Poe and my youngest daughter. Notice the grip and notice the smile. This is what tereo looks like. She is joyfully guarding this hamster. She is holding fast. She doesn’t want to lose that hamster because, for some reason, that hamster makes her happy. Poe the hamster is her favorite thing. She tereos it. She guards it. She holds it close for her joy.
Do we feel that way about obedience? Do we want the commands of Jesus? Do we push against the commands of Jesus or do we hold fast to them?
If we understand that our master is not only logical, but loving, it changes how we think about obedience. The master of the universe doesn’t just demand things from us, He died for us. And if we deeply understand that He was beaten and killed for our good, how could we ever think His commands are bad?
He wants us to live. He wants us to live abundantly. He has already proven that, so we shouldn’t look at his commands as burdens but as blessings. The combination of His lordship and love should cause us to tereo His commands like a little child clings to the hamster. We tereo the commands of God. We cling to them with hope.
When we believe that Jesus is for us, we know His commands are for us, and it begins to make sense why we would be for one another’s obedience. Don’t ignore your brother or sisters sin. Don’t let weeks go by in your group with no challenges to follow the commands of Christ. They are tied to the life we hope for. Our obedience is a part of our joy. We serve one another as we help each other obey.
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)