“Not law, but love, is the motive of [a follower of Christ’s] life; and the inspiration of love can make him able to do what the restraint of the law was powerless to help him do.” (William Barclay, Study of Romans, p. 94)

Wikipedia defines “THE LAW” as “the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties.”

God gave the ancient people of Israel a basic set of laws commonly known as “The Ten Commandments.” These were set up to guide the spiritual and physical lives of the Israelites. As the nation developed, laws were added until they totaled 613. “Rabbis” were employed to study and teach these laws, which led to a judicial council, or “The Sanhedrin,” to enforce the laws.

Barclay says that love, not law, should be our motive and guiding force for life as a Christian. This leads us to “the law of love” Jesus taught, which literally changed the course of history. Whereas the Law, given by God through Moses, set up guidelines for Israel, it became the catalyst for an even deeper law.

Because His ministry was so unique, Jesus was constantly hounded by the Rabbis. At one point they asked Him, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law? Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor AS yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)

Jesus’ answer challenged these highly educated teachers to think deeper about the law they taught. In order to fully understand the letter of the law, they needed to understand the heart of the law. Unfortunately, they were so immersed in trying to keep 613 rules, they totally missed Jesus’ point.

The seemingly insignificant word “as” Jesus used in verse 39 above, has a mountain of meaning! In the Greek it means “even as” or “in the same manner as.” We could interpret the verse: “Love the people you interact with (your family, friends, acquaintances, and even your enemies!) in the same way as you already love, nurture, and care for yourself.”

Jesus’ law of love inspires us to be better than our best in response to God’s great love for us. The laws of any legal system regulate the lives of its people. Regrettably, by their very existence, those same laws entice people to break them. In essence, we are shackled to a legal contract with the law, which we are destined to break.

On the other hand, by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, we place ourselves under the law of love, through His grace. You could think of this in terms of a marriage between a wife subjected a dictatorial husband. She will always fail to meet the strict rules he has set for her. Perhaps this husband dies and the wife, freed from his tyranny, marries a compassionate and loving husband. In this new marriage, the same woman does far more than anything she could ever have done to please her first husband.

What is the difference? She is now under the law of love and thus responds in loving obedience to her new husband. This is what freedom from the law looks like for a believer in Christ. We are no longer under the tyranny of the law, with the penalty of death for being disobedient to the law. We are now born-again into a new love relationship with God through Jesus Christ, because He has already paid our penalty for breaking the law through His death.

The inner work that God does in us when we surrender our lives to Christ is life-changing and life-giving! We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are freed and given eternal life through the law of love.

Each of us faces a great dilemma! Will we continue to chafe, resist, and ultimately rebel against the laws of the land or perhaps outwardly, legalistically, resentfully try and obey? Or will we choose to allow God to change our hearts, fill us with His love, and live a life of loving obedience to the One Who first loved us?

LOVE to all, from Ann