“Love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:10)
If love is the fulfillment of the Law – and is at the heart of obedience to God, then we had better understand what love is.
First, what love is not…
Love is not an emotion. It is not the warm “fuzzy” feeling that it is often made out to be (in books, TV shows, and movies). It is not affection, bubbling over. It is not heightened passion… or dialed-up fondness. Sure, love does have an emotional component (we DO feel things when we love). But the feelings themselves are not love – for love goes beyond feelings.
This is a really good thing. Because Jesus asks His people to do some pretty impossible things. One of which is to LOVE our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27).
It is good to know that Jesus is not asking us to work up warm and affectionate feelings for someone who wishes to hate or mistreat us. We do not have to feel fond of someone, in order to love someone. And it is possible to actually, truly, love a person who treats us harshly, or unfairly, or with contempt.
How is this possible? Because love is a choice.
It is an act of the will based upon a certain fact… the Author of love lives within us, and He loves all people the same. Love does not just see the outward things… it seeks out the inner things. It begins with the infinite worth instilled, in every human being, by our Creator. God loves, not because we are deserving of His love… He loves because He chooses to do so. Because love is at the very core of His character. “God IS love.” (1 John 4:8, 16)
It is why Jesus could look out from the cruel savagery of the cross and could look upon those who mistreated Him, and scoffed at Him, and tormented Him… and say such things as “Forgive them… for they know not what they do.”
Only love could look upon your sworn enemies and wish them well.
And that is what love is. It is the decision to do what is good for the object of your love – in spite of whether, or not, they deserve that kind of action. Love sees beyond the nonsense, sees the value of the person, and acts accordingly.
Our problems with loving most always stem from our tendency to ignore the value of God, or other people (usually coupled with a heightened sense of our own self-importance!) Or maybe, more accurately, we struggle to love because we can find good reasons not to love. We don’t want to love… and we can give you a thousand reasons why we are justified in that decision.
But this is the point of Christians and love. We are called (and redeemed) to love AS God loves us. To apply the same decision processes that He applies. To apply the same zeal to loving that He applies. And God’s love is encapsulated in these words: “God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
That means that the very definition of love was provided by how God dealt with us. He looked and saw that we were all terrible sinners (and some of us were not even trying to hide that fact) and His choice was to send His Own Son to die for us. NOT when we were good. NOT when we were getting better. NOT even because we were asking Him to do so. Though we were bad. Though we were sinners. Though we were nothing like a Holy God. God looked upon us, saw the immense value that He gave us, and sent Jesus to die – so that we might live, in Him.
It is love like that, that is meant to inspire us… and lead us – to love as we have been loved. And the really good news is that the Lover of our souls is now living within us – to help us to do what we could never do naturally.
Love is the fulfillment of the Law… Because the Law-giver is also the Author of love – and He has come to make sure that His kind of love flows from our own hearts.
Prayer focus: God, let me choose to be a person who loves as You have loved me.