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Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." It’s interesting how we naturally seem inclined to reverse that statement.
When it comes to relationships, most of us like to know where we stand. We like to have some clear evidence, some way to measure where we stand with others, and the idea of the law being the way to fulfill love is easier to measure, easier to keep track of, than the idea of love being the way to fulfill the law.
The problem with that reasoning is that a person can keep the law without loving. But a person cannot love without the law being fulfilled in them. The law gives instruction in the ways a person who loves will live. But the difference between the law and love is that love works from the inside, transforming a person from the inside out; and the law only affects what is on the outside – outward behavior.
That’s because love and law have very different motivations. A person motivated by love does not need to be told to behave in a loving way, but a person motivated by law does. We fear that unless there is some strong outside motivation, such as the law, compelling us to behave rightly, we probably won’t.
But real love is unconditional. It’s not something that can be compelled, forced or coerced into existence. It’s freely given and freely received, or it isn’t love. It might be acceptance or approval, but it is not love, because love has no conditions. Acceptance and approval usually do have conditions, and we often mistake them for love.
That is why our so-called "love" is so easily strained when the people we “love” fall short of our expectations and demands. Such so-called “love” is really just approval, which we can give or withhold based on how well others measure up to our demands and expectations. Many of us were treated that way by our parents, our teachers and our bosses, and without even thinking we often treat our own children that way.
Maybe that is why we tend to get so uncomfortable with the idea that faith in Christ has superseded the law. We want something to measure others by, but if they are saved by grace through faith, which they are, then we have no measuring rod to use. If God loves them in spite of their sins, then how can we size them up and withhold love from them when they don’t behave the way we want them to?
Well, the good news is that we are all saved only by grace through faith, and we can be very thankful that we are, because not one person but Jesus has ever measured up to salvation. Thank God for his unconditional love, through which he both saves us and transforms us into the image of Christ.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.