Throughout his letter, John has tied together the love of God with the keeping of his commandments. He would have us know merely professing one loves God without expressing love through obedience is a misnomer. This is important in view of the fact a certain group of so-called believers in John’s day claimed God loved them and they loved God, while they lived lives of disobedience to God. John reminds us (again) those who love God will always keep his commandments.
Yet John then adds a powerful incentive for our obedience—“his commandments are not burdensome!” For many, the word commandment carries with it the notion of something difficult, requiring much sacrifice. John would have us know that the commandments of God are not a heavy thing at all but joyful for those who love God. The word burdensome in the text is a Greek term meaning ‘oppressive or difficult of observance, grievous, oppressive, afflictive, violent, strict, stern, severe,”
Where then do we get the idea that God’s commandments are hard and that living a life of obedience to God is difficult? This does not come from the Father but from the enemy of our souls who first suggested to our first parents in the Garden that God was a difficult taskmaster who was depriving them of something good by restraining them from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since then he has worked hard to perpetuate the idea that keeping God’s commandments is difficult and burdensome. Multitudes of people live dutiful lives void of joy, persuaded that this is the lot of those who obey his commandments. Still others postpone coming to Jesus because they are persuaded that they want to derive all they can from life before they submit to God and give up all the fun.
Yet Scripture says “the way of the transgressor is hard.” It is not the keeping of the commandments of God that is difficult but living a life of disobedience that is really burdensome. In the Upper Room discourse, Jesus spoke of keeping the commandments of God in the same breath as he spoke of the joy that would be theirs because of obeying his commandments. This is where true joy lies. Are you living a life of joyful obedience? Or have you listened to the whispers of the enemy who tells us submitting to God is a difficult and burdensome thing?