When I read John 14:21 as a stand-alone verse, it bothers me.
It seems that Jesus is saying that obedience to all of God’s commandments is the only way to love and be loved by God.
I know that I can never perfectly do this. Or really, even come close. So, I read before and after to find out what is going on. (I have misunderstood many things in the Bible because of where chapter breaks fall – and I know many of the chapter designations are arbitrary or were put in way after the fact.)
In context, the command that Jesus has just given them in John 13:34-35 is
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ”
This is just after He has washed their feet and told them that “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
I have found that we believe a commandment is from God when it is actually some mortal person’s misunderstanding.
So I judge all that I read or that is told to me that “God Said” through the filter of “Does it go along with or contradict love? Does it fill me with faith and gratitude or fear and hatred? Does it cause me to draw closer to God, or push me farther away?”
Because EVERY SINGLE WORD we have from God – even personal revelation – is filtered through some imperfect mortal’s biases, cultural, desires, fears, mistakes, misremembering and other imperfections. I don’t believe it is possible as a mortal to know pure truth from God.
God does not seem to take away anyone’s agency by correcting words that are attributed to Him. And I personally have at times hated myself and made bad choices because I believed that God said or wanted something that I know now He does not.
I also see many things attributed to God that are all about forcing obedience or judging and persecuting others. I don’t believe any of this is of God.
So I have to pass EVERYTHING – scripture, prophet’s speaking, spiritual promptings, etc. through a filter or test. And the best one I have come up with is Love.
One of the phrases that I try to pray every day (and reflect on – which I believe is a major purpose of prayer – we don’t pray to change God’s mind, but our own) is:
“Fill me with Your love so it illuminates my thinking to better do Your will”