Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mark 12:28-34 Love is the Fulfillment of the Law

KEY TEXT: Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

KEY THOT: Jesus declares that love is the greatest commandment: love God and love others. In Matt 22:40, he went even further; he declares that “on these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." In other words, if we can’t remember the 613 commands in the OT and the 1,050 commands in NT, just remember that the root of the law of Moses and the law of Christ is love, for God is love. But if all we need is just the command to love, then why did God give us 613 OT commands and 1,050 NT commands? While love should be the driving motive for life, we as ex-sinners have forgotten how to love as God has loved us. God therefore gave us specific commands to show us how we are to love Him and others.

For example, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 elaborates agape-love as practical attitudes and actions: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” If not for this scripture, I wouldn’t have known that impatience, envying, boasting, rudeness, self-will, showing irritation at others, being resentful, not rejoicing when others succeed, not forbearing, not believing in others, untrusting, lack of perseverance are all unloving attitudes and actions. My heart needs to be instructed to love as God desires us to love. We can extend this argument to the rest of scripture: 
  • Ten Commandments: Love is making God our first love, having no other idols (money or success), honouring God’s name, setting aside a day in a week for God (Sabbath), honouring our parents, being faithful to our spouses, being honest and truthful always, and not coveting (being contented). 
  • Sermon on the Mount: Love is not cursing others, not entertaining lustful thoughts, praying for our enemies, not making vows, keeping our words, etc.
  • Epistles: Love is trusting God, praying without ceasing, rejoicing always, giving thanks in all circumstances, being gentle with our wives, submitting to our husbands, obeying our parents, giving our best in our service to our employers, etc. 
  • Revelation: Love is being faithful unto death; not losing first love and zeal for God; not colluding with Satan and practising sexual immorality. 
In short, there are 1,050 shades of love in the NT. Without these commands we would probably end up with Situational Ethics (Joseph Fletcher), where love is the supreme motive that can justify breaking God’s other commands. Example given by Fletcher: a woman in a concentration camp loved her son and wanted to return home to take care of him. Knowing that the German camp commandant would only release her if she was pregnant, she consorted with the guard and got herself pregnant. So, since she was motivated by love, her adulterous act was the right thing to do. If she had been taught God’s commands, she would know that adultery itself is an unloving act towards God and her husband.

Love is the “fulfilment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). But love cannot be the justification for ignoring or breaking the laws—not only scriptural commands but also the laws of the land. The sad story of City Harvest Church is a warning that love cannot be the excuse for breaking the laws of the land. Nor the breaking of the laws of God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom 13:1-2).

So, even though we say that love is the heart of all of God’s commands, it behooves us to seek to understand how this love is to be expressed, for we as former slaves to sin need to unlearn our past habits and learn the new habits of sons of God: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:44-45). 

Father, thank You for the love of God poured into our hearts by Your Spirit so that we have no more excuse for not loving the way Jesus loved. Amen.

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