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Love and Law

How are love and law related? Are they mutually exclusive? If we treat someone well only because the law says we must, does that mean we don’t love him? What does God say?

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Gal. 5:14).

… love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10).

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments (1 John 5:2).

And this is love, that we walk after his commandments (2 John 1:6).

These verses tell us what, in God’s eyes, love is; it is simply the keeping of His commandments. At first, we might wish to rebel against this idea but indeed, where else can we go to tell us what anything means? There is no standard apart from or above God from which we can draw definitions or meaning. We are only creatures and must depend on our Creator to tell us who we are, what our feelings mean and the real significance of what goes on in our minds. Indeed, all knowledge and even all possibility of knowledge comes from God.

Love then, is an action word; it is not just a feeling, an emotional state, as is commonly believed. It can, and usually does, involve emotions; but love itself is not so much what one feels as it is what one does in obedience to God’s commandments. God does not tell us to develop a feeling in our hearts; He tells us to take action and gives us very precise directions as to what actions to take.

God’s definition of love lets us love the unlovable, those that may display no good qualities whatever, and even our enemies. There are times, though, when loving someone can be difficult and unpleasant. Expressing love as God defines it can mean criticizing or rebuking someone you don’t want to hurt. It’s something you may hesitate to do because you believe it may not be accepted with equanimity. You may feel you might lose a friend or lose contact with someone to whom you believe you could be a good influence. You might feel it would be better to say nothing and just let it go and this may be true at times; but to do so repeatedly and so avoid ever speaking is to disobey God and is unloving.

The individual you might wish to protect might be one of God’s elect but needs to be driven away at this time so that he can go through whatever experiences God has for him, and much later, believe and repent. But we don’t know this; he may not be one of God’s elect and your words may be intended to harden him just as God used Moses to harden Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17-18). We do not know God’s purposes for our words and actions; all we can do is keep on obeying Him. We are not gods and cannot act as though we are our own masters. There is no sane alternative to simple obedience.

We must obey God even when the consequences may appear dire or just wrong from our point of view. But God is God and we are His fallen creatures; it is for us to obey and not to second-guess God. In some instances, it may appear that obedience produced a negative result. That, though, is only our own poor opinion. We don’t know how God will use our words. The rebuke may be just what is needed at that point in time, even though the effect might not be visible until much later. It is truly foolish to ever disobey God’s clear directives.

God has given us in His law, words of life, words that, when obeyed, result in peace and prosperity. Virtually every problem we see in ourselves, our society, and in the world at large stem from failure to obey this law. So let us love one another as God commands (Mark 12: 30,31; John 13:34); but let us do so as God tells us to and let’s not let ourselves get carried away by the foolish wisdom of this world.