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The Law of Love

Travis Rogers, Jr.

The Law of Love

Religion
4 min.
May 4, 2021

The Law of Love

Scriptures: Acts 8:26-40, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8

I feel very pleased and privileged that today is the day I'm allowed to speak on behalf of Pastor Asafa. When I saw the texts for this Sunday, I was overjoyed to find that not only is my favorite epistle to be found but so is my favorite chapter. That is, the epistle of First John, chapter 4. 

Cutting through the Legalism

This text cuts through all the rules, all the legalism, that religiosity tries to place on us. The theology of First John rests firmly and completely on the new commandment that Jesus gave us as recorded in the Gospel According to John 13:34-35. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Yes, the Hebrew Bible gave us 10 commandments to follow. But those commandments were to be descriptive of the life of a believer. Sadly, we have all too often made those commandments to be prescriptive. That is to say, we make those ten declarations to be laws when, in fact, the Hebrew word for Torah is not law but teachings. When we turn those declarations into prescriptive law, it means that we are more concerned with the rigidity of following those rules to the letter. By declaring them to be descriptive, and we believe they are, those ten statements serve to describe what our lives should look like. Therefore, when we break those commandments, the tragedy is not in a broken commandment but that it reveals an identifies a brokenness inside ourselves. 

The Transformative Commandment of Love

John, in his Gospel and in his first epistle, shows the transformative command of Jesus that we are to love – love God and love each other. Love becomes the proof of our relationship to God and it is the hallmark of the life of the believer in the way that we love each other. By loving others, we are showing our closeness to God by loving those whom God loves. To freely love others means we remove all judgement of them and attempt to see them as God sees them.

So, when we “break a commandment”, we are showing our lack of love—the broken part of us that does not love as we should. 

Loving Much

Luke 7:41-48 reads, “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The Danish theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote extensively on this passage and on chapter four from First John. Kierkegaard rightly points out that we have gotten the cart before the horse by saying that forgiveness comes before love. It certainly looks that way in a casual reading of Luke Chapter 7 but, on closer investigation, we see that the woman lavishes her love and the final act is Jesus saying that her sins are forgiven. Love, Kierkegaard declares, precedes forgiveness. 

Love Fulfills the Law

In fact, Kierkegaard, and others like him, have focused on Jesus’ declaration that love fulfils the law. In other words, when we love as we should and act according to that love, the law will be fulfilled ... The commandments will go unbroken. Loving as God loves shows are kinship and obedience to God. 

With all this in mind, let's read the First John passage again. 

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit

And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

God is Love

Look at that brilliant verse 16 which declares without reservation God is love and related to that is those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them

See how easy it is. The commandment is simply love. Saint Augustine put it another way by saying love and do what you want. That sounds rather free-spirited and “new agey” but the fact is that, if we truly love and love as we ought, then there is no danger in us doing what we want because what we want will always serve love. 

The many commandments of the law have been condensed into the commandment to love. As Jesus said love the Lord your God with all your heart your mind and your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Those aren't two commandments. They are the A and B sections of one commandment. The commandment is love and the two clauses simply tell us who to love. 

Nothing to Fear

John concludes that passage by saying that, if we love as we ought, then there is nothing to fear on the day of judgment. Because “there is no fear in love but” and this is one of my favorite passages of the whole Bible “perfect love casts out fear.” 

On that day, we will have no fear of punishment, if we have reached perfection in love. And we will have reached it. Christ assures us of that.

Now here's the fun part for me. Next week we get to pick up with the very next verse of the very next chapter. We'll call it Part 2. 


This article was orginally reported by
Travis Rogers, Jr.

Travis is a contributor in religion and entertainment.

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