One of the most popular films of all time is the 1987 movie, “The Princess Bride.” Like many films that have become classics, it was not a spectacular success in its original theatrical release. However, the advent of the VCR and movie rental stores exposed it to a much wider audience, most of whom immediately fell in love with it. Today, nearly thirty years after its initial release, The Princess Bride is one of the most beloved films ever.
At the heart of it, The Princess Bride is a love story. In the opening sequences the beautiful Buttercup takes great pleasure in ordering the farm boy, Westley, to do various menial chores for her. Each time she gives him an order, he softly replies, “As you wish,” and does as she has requested. After several instances of this exchange, the narrator explains to the audience that Buttercup finally realized that when Westley, said, “As you wish,” he really meant, “I love you.”
Neither the author of the book, nor the director of the film, had any spiritual message in mind as they worked on this beautiful story. However, there is a very basic spiritual truth to be found in Westley’s simple statement. It is, in fact, a fundamental truth that marks mankind’s relationship to God from the beginning of time. It is the truth that loving God means doing what He commands us to do.
God Himself spoke this truth when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In Ex. 20:4-6 God said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” In other words, those who love God obey Him. Those who don’t obey Him, hate Him.
When Jesus was upon the earth, He repeated this truth in Jn. 14:15. On the night of His betrayal the Lord told the twelve, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Later, as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said to the Father, “. . . yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). This is it in a nutshell. If we truly love God and love our Lord Jesus Christ, we will obey their commands. This is how we say, “I love you,” to them. Any response other than obedience means we hate them (Ex. 20:5).
This truth seems largely forgotten in the broader religious world today. Much of modern church-going has become, “As I wish,” rather than, “As you wish.” For example, some churches are constituted on the basis of what appeals to the largest number of people. Other churches hold a finger to the wind and alter long-standing doctrines so they will not run afoul of political correctness. Individual believers shop around to find a church that provides the programs and the worship experience that they most enjoy. All of these loudly proclaim how much they love Jesus, even while they systematically ignore much of what the Lord commanded.
From the time that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, until the Lord comes again, God has required only one thing of mankind. He requires us to show our love for Him by obeying what He has commanded. He has not allowed anyone in any era of history to alter or ignore His word in any way. Moses told Israel, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). At the end of Revelation John wrote, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18, 19). From cover to cover the scriptures require us to do what God commands.
By God’s own assessment, and by the proclamation of the scriptures delivered by means of His Holy Spirit, those who alter or ignore His commands actually hate Him, and His judgment will come upon those who do so. On the other hand, if we truly love God, and if we truly love our Lord Jesus Christ, there is only one response we can make to what is written in the scriptures. All we can say is, “As you wish.”