Love is what God is looking for most from His people? Love is all we need? Love is the answer? How can that be?
What about the Law? Love is a willy-nilly notion. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Love can make people do stupid things. We need something concrete, eternal, unchanging. We need something you can look up, something factual. Law is what we need. At least this is something like what the most die-hard Jews in the Roman church might have been thinking.
And I would have to agree, if what we were talking about is the purely emotional, saccharine-sweet, I-get-butterflies-when-you-are-around kind of love. Yes, I am not sure that kind of love is sufficient for a lifetime of guidance into right living.
But Paul is talking about something else.
Don’t owe anything to anyone, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your neighbor, you see, you have fulfilled the law. Commandments like “don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t covet” — and any other commandment — are summed up in this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to its neighbor; so love is the fulfillment of the law. (13:8-10)
How can the principle of love be enough to guide us into right living? Paul answers that question twice: because love fulfills the Law. All of the Jewish Laws were just ways to show love to our neighbors. In appealing to love as the proper ethic for life, Paul was essentially returning to the basic principle that undergirds God’s way of life. Paul goes further: Love is the fulfillment of the law because this kind of sacrificial love of will and choice sets out to always do what is best for a person, and in so doing does no wrong to its neighbor. If the Roman Christians would treat each other that way they would be doing the Law that matters most to God. If we today always did what was in the best interest of the people around us, we would truly be doing what God wants.