February 01, 2022

Law is Not Enough

Romans 12:9-21; 13:8-10

Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

—  Romans 13:8

To help my students think about the relationship between love and God’s law, I would ask them, “How would you like to use the following for your wedding vows?

“I promise not to kill you, not to steal from you, not to cheat on you, not to swear at your parents. . . .”

Not once did a student say, “Wow, that sounds great! Can you send me a copy for my wedding?” That’s because these are negative legal statements, not positive promises of love.

Laws prohibit harm, whereas love promises good. Of course, you wouldn’t want to marry someone who vowed to kill you or steal from you. But promising not to harm someone would not give them much of a reason to marry you, either. You should not harm anyone, of course. And you should promise lifelong love to only one person.

So how do love and law work together? In Romans, the apostle Paul explains that we show love by serving and obeying the Lord, whose law reminds us and guides us to love God and love others. Paul writes, “Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Still, plenty of questions remain. How is the law fulfilled by love? How does the work of Christ change our relationship to the law? Why do we still need to obey the law? The way Christians live out the answers to such questions will direct our lives.

Lord, thank you for your love and your law. Help us to love and obey you, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

About the author — Kent Van Til

Kent Van Til was a missionary in Costa Rica. He taught theological ethics both there and in the USA. He is the author of four books. The most recent is a spiritual biography of his grandmother entitled, "A Name for Herself: A Dutch Immigrant's Story." Kent likes to fish, hunt, make music, and entertain his grandchildren.

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