Guardrails, not Stop Signs

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” These words of Jesus, found in St. John’s Gospel, are well known to us. But they also seem to fit the agenda of a young woman who recently gave her boyfriend 22 demands, commandments, to follow in their relationship. He was asked to sign a lengthy contract agreeing to her terms.

And so, for example, she demanded: You are NOT to have a single girl’s phone number; You are NOT to hang out with your friends more than two times a week; You are NOT to get mad at me about a single thing, ever again; You are NOT allowed to drink unless I am with you; and, If I say jump, you say, “How high, princess?”

The list found its way onto Twitter, and, as you can imagine, immediately went viral. “Sounds like a bridezilla in the making,” one commentator observed. Another simply advised the boyfriend, “Run!!!”

I don’t know what became of the negotiating couple – if he surrendered unconditionally and accepted her terms, or if indeed, he ran the other way. But, a few observations are in order here.

First, when Jesus told us to keep his commandments, his list was far more profound and helpful than “bridezilla’s.” Jesus was referring, first of all, to the Ten Commandments which he instructed us to observe. And surely he had in mind the great commandment of love – to love God above all things, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This command summarizes the law and the prophets, Jesus said.

And second, I suppose it’s only natural for us to react negatively to commandments that are imposed on us. No one likes to be told what or what not to do. We are willful little creatures, and we cherish our freedom.

But the fact is, the commandments of God are not arbitrary or capricious. They reflect the natural law and are given to ensure our safety while we travel the road to Heaven! The commandments point us in the right direction, guide us around spiritual detours, help us avoid damaging potholes, and prevent us from veering wildly off the road. The commandments of God are guardrails, not stop signs.

Something to think about: If we love God, we keep his commandments. And if we fail, if we fall, we ask his forgiveness.