Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
It requires a sharp mind to grasp what is complex. But genius exists in the ability to make the complex simple. This is never more evident than in the life and teaching of Jesus. When faced with the trap of naming the greatest commandment of the law, he brilliantly threaded the entire law together with the two-sided, yet single coin of holy love for God and neighbor. In insisting on naming two commands, not one, he shows us that love is like breathing. Which is more important, breathing in or breathing out? Pick one. You can’t. If you’re not doing both, soon enough you won’t be doing either.
Paul follows his rabbi in this simple (though never simplistic) understanding of theology, declaring that holy love is the irreducible thread holding the fullness of the law and prophets together. And this genius is channeled yet again by John Wesley as he gives a plain account of the royal way of holiness. We’ll give that radical Mr. Wesley the last word today:
It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this: the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion: there is, in effect, nothing else. If you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way, and when you are asking others, “Have you received this or that blessing?” if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false scent.
God of love, form us in that likeness. Train us to breath in this rhythm of loving you and our neighbor.
What do you think of this elevated vision of love? How does it resonate or conflict with your own view of God’s character? How does it resonate or conflict with your own pattern of life?
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