The Law of Love
In light of Easter, I've been thinking of the implications of the resurrection.
The resurrection, by the grace of the Spirit, enables us to live free from law and sin. We're often conscious of our freedom from sin, but freedom from law is a reality which, although generally disregarded, must be understood in order for our new life to make sense. As Spirit-filled beings, we are regenerate, meaning we have been born again - “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As new creations living in a fallen world, we're faced with a very deceptive temptation: to live in the perfection of Jesus.
This sounds like a noble act. However, we're not called to live thusly. We're called to let Christ live in us (Galatians 2:20).
We are entirely err-bent. Possessing a knowledge of good and evil, we no longer understand Spirit. Every act is now filtered through a scale, coming up good or evil. And in our pursuit of perfection, in trying to be Christ-like, we aim only for the good. But in so doing, we've fallen captive to our sin nature. It's as if we're eating the fruit of the forbidden tree over and over again. We can't help but focus on our own selves. “I just can't seem to kick this particular sin,” we say, or “Well, maybe if I just try harder...” We self-deprecate because we can't defeat sin, or alternately, we become pious because we can. And we forget that we're no longer bound by law; by good and evil.
When we sin, we shouldn’t despise ourselves, but rather we should lean into the grace of Christ. We are not to trivialize it; our sin is not meaningless, but nor is it justified. If we despise ourselves post-sin, it's because we're focused on law, and on not being able to live up to it. Rather, we need to re-focus our attention on the grace of God.
Sin is not eliminated from our lives because we try harder to eliminate it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if we go to church, start a new Bible-reading plan, stop hanging out with certain friends, or “don't go near the door of the adulterer,” we will eventually conquer sin. No. We're actually living in the fullness of sin’s power when we function in that regard.
We have to stop living in our fallen world, in which we categorize everything in terms of good and evil. Christianity is not moral perfectionism; it's grace, which enables love.
Sin is sin. There's no way around it on this side of eternity. We must stop fighting against sin and start living like Christ. After all, Christ was a sinner according to the law of the scribes and Pharisees. He was perfect in every way; “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15); coming to “fulfill [the law and the prophets]” (Matthew 5:17). He did not maintain perfection because He tried so hard to keep the law. He was not a product of the fall, meaning that He did not weigh His actions on a scale of good or evil, and therefore, only do “the good.” If He had done that, He would have been a sinner, no better than us, despite being morally perfect.
And Jesus was, in fact, perfect; He fulfilled the law, not because He kept the law, but because He lived apart from it - for “apart from the law, sin lies dead” (Romans 7:8). The only law of God is love (Matthew 22:37-40).
I believe that the only reason this is a law is because we would never do it, had we known it was “good.” Had we never been required to love, we'd probably never attempt it. We're much too busy for love in the first place. Because of the hardness of our hearts, God required love in the hope that one day, after receiving a taste of His love, we'd love Him and others - not out of requirement, but out of desire.
Love is more than a law. It is original to our design. It’s what we've been created for. When we live in faith, in the way of the Spirit, this is what we will inevitably do – we will love. This is what Jesus did to fulfill the law. He did not oppose sin while abiding under the law. He actually lived apart from the law, and therefore, apart from sin, and simply lived the life we've been created to live: a life full of love.
The Spirit, abiding in us as a result of the cross and of grace, does not transform us into perfect adherents of the law. The cross allowed for an entirely new way – the way of resurrection. We can now live dead to sin, and alive to God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). We no longer need to dwell on the good and evil. Christ does not count our trespasses against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). We can now live in freedom, apart from that which provokes shame and pride, and walk in the Spirit; in the way of love; in God's original intention for us.
Director of Youth & Discipleship
Riviera Baptist Church