In today’s world, we often hear statements like: “just love one another, that is all that matters.” And it is kind of true. The rub is, they are often in response to a discussion on living right. They are spoken as if they are the final answer to all moral questions.
Problem is, we don’t even know what love is. Ask random people on the street what love is and they will struggle to define love. Check out this YouTube video to see what I mean:
So not knowing what love is, and throwing love out as the final answer to how we should live doesn’t help much. Righteousness is about loving God and loving our fellowmen. To live righteously is to love.
Now, we do understand a little of what love is. You can see that in what we teach our kids. They talk about love in action, whereas adults seem to have lost love as action and see it as some sort of feeling. In this YouTube video, kids talk about love. See the difference:
Somehow the kids know more of what love is than the adults do. Maybe that is because when we think about love, we go first and foremost to romance as love, and the feelings of ecstasy and betrayal have marred the grand picture of what love is.
That is where the law comes in. It teaches us what love is. Jesus says:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 37-39 (NIV)
In other words, the entire law, and everything that the prophets were trying to teach us was how we are to love God, and how we are to love each other.
I have to make a quick side note here. The law is split into two parts. The Relationship Part and the Ceremonial Part. They are historically separated into two parts. Most theologians call them the Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law. The Ceremonial law is all about what we need to do to qualify ourselves to come before God. That is the part that Jesus fulfilled and it was intended more as a prophetic foreshadow of what Jesus would do for us.
The Moral Law, or as I call it, the Relationship Part, is about how we can love God properly and how we love each other properly. That is still the golden guideline of how we are to live, what it means to be righteous, and what love does. And that part of the law is totally and completely fulfilled by perfect love. In Galatians, the apostle Paul writes:
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” Galatians 5:14 (NIV)
The clearest explanation in the New Testament though, is perhaps what the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans:
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 8-10 (NASB)
See, stealing from your friend is just not a cool thing to do. We would say that it is not very loving. So when you steal, you do not love. Neither is it a very loving thing to sleep with your neighbour’s wife. Or for that matter, spreading lies about another person. Love treats the other person right! Love is righteous.
So the law teaches love. That is why when we love, we have fulfilled the entire law. We need to remember though, that sometimes we don’t know the first thing about love, and God knows, so we have to trust what God says is love is really love.
Here is another problem. We like to use the law to judge others. That is not what the law was created for. That is a twisting of the law. The law was designed to teach us how to live. So when we use the law to hold it over somebody else and condemn them for falling short, we have misused the law.
We are not qualified to do that. Only God can do that. We need to teach the law with humility, realizing that we too fall short. That leaves no room for judgement. But seeing the law and applying it to ourselves and realizing how we too fall short, should focus us on God’s mercy (undeserved forgiveness), how He loves us with an everlasting love, and that He gives us grace (undeserved favour).
And we need God’s mercy and grace. Because even though the law teaches the right way to love, it doesn’t help us apply it. We need the power of the Holy Spirit for that. We need grace!