If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

IN THE 1990s, senior warden Burl Cain grieved while watching an execution at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He said to his colleague, “We have failed.” They failed to rehabilitate the inmate, who on his release committed another heinous crime. Determined to change the system from “lock and feed” to moral rehabilitation, Mr. Cain began with common courtesy in the prison. He prohibited swearing by both employees and inmates, believing that if guards treated the prisoners with respect, the inmates would respond with better attitudes. Mr. Cain’s experiment worked, and he continued to build morality into the system by building on relationships. Today the prison is transformed from one of the bloodiest prisons in America to one with low recidivism, high respect, and a hospice program that serves as a role model for prisons nationwide.

Brute force engenders neither respect nor love, and any obedience results from soul-crippling fear. Jesus did not lead this way, so when He says, “If love me, you will obey me,” we look at His life. Love and respect breed—surprise—love and respect. Because we aren’t fighting for respect, obedience is easier. But Jesus didn’t stop with just a statement about obedience, didn’t quote a sports aphorism like “Do it.” No, Jesus sent the Comforter, who guides us into loving obedience, reminding us what we need to do.

People who are loved, love right back.

Prayerfully consider what loving obedience looks like for you today.

Jane Rubietta is the author of the deeper devotions Finding Life, Finding the Messiah, and Finding Your Promise (Wesleyan Publishing House). She also loves life, words, the outdoors, and garden-fresh tomatoes.