Today we begin a sermon series on The Ten Commandments. Paul comments on the commandments in our epistle lesson from Romans today. He says, “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.”
This is a passage much misunderstood. Love, as the Bible speaks of it, and as Jesus lived it and expounded it, is not an unprincipled piece of sentimental fluff floating in the clouds somewhere.
Nor does the Bible ever set love in opposition to the law, to the timeless commandments of God as we find them summarized, for instance, in the Ten Commandments or in the doctrinal truths of Paul’s epistles.
This sort of thing is everywhere these days. Liberal, Bible-denying churches and immoral celebrities toss out the plain commands of God and then have the nerve to portray themselves as sweet, compassionate, understanding, tolerant – and above all, loving!
Bible-believing churches on the other hand are most often portrayed in the media and elsewhere as cold, out-of-touch-with-with-the-times, unfeeling, heartless, legalistic, intolerant and above all, unloving.
In the minds of many, love means breaking the commandments. Love means compromising the doctrines of the Bible, going along to get along. Love means blaming everyone but yourself for your messes and forever playing the victim. Love means stealing the pleasures of the marriage bed without the responsibility. Love means cheating on your spouse because of some romantic force bigger than the both of you. Clearly, too many Christians are shipwrecking their faith by redefining love as the breaking of the commandments.
That kind of love is a lie. Paul says love is the fulfillment of the commandments – not the breaking of them. “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” said Jesus. The natural fruit of a person who has been saved by grace alone, through faith in the doing and dying of Christ alone, is a heart that wants to do God’s will. Real love sees the commandments in their various forms as expressions of love, first for the God who died for us, and then for our neighbor for whom Christ also died. To refrain from murder, theft, adultery, lying – this is love for God and for one’s neighbor. A person in whom the Holy Spirit lives counts his neighbor’s marriage, goods and life as precious as his own. A person filled with love for God’s truth, love for his own soul and love for the souls of others, will abhor the poison of false doctrine in any form, simply because “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Let us begin our study of God’s commandments with this spirit: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”