How many times have you seen people do something so stupid that you end up shaking your head and saying, “There oughta be a law against that.” And the problem is, that too often someone makes those laws, and most of the people ignore them. The only people who seem to obey the law are the people who don’t do those types of things anyway. So laws like that don’t really help. Well, except maybe having a law against men’s rompers. Those things are ridiculous. Oh, and man buns. Need I say anything more? Oh yeah, the proverbial “If you don’t know why, I’m not gonna tell you” words in an argument. There oughta be a law against those things.
Those laws won’t be written because the only people who would obey them are those who would live like that without the law. As Paul talked about living in grace, he echoed the words of Jesus when talking about the greatest commandment. Since Paul was dealing with how we relate to people, he only noted the second part of Jesus’ statement, at least that’s my interpretation. “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.” (Romans 13:9-10)
I don’t know if Paul heard Jesus talk about the greatest commandment, although it’s possible, but his explanation is very close to the words of Jesus. We could have a long list of does and don’ts to follow. The problem with working so hard to make sure you do right and avoid doing wrong is that the joy is sapped out of the process. When you think back to the story of the rich young ruler who had checked all the boxes on the checklists of behavior, you realize that he didn’t have joy – he was still worried even though he had done everything right. Also, if you think about it, a checklist from the days of Moses, while great, doesn’t deal with the changes we have in society: I didn’t commit murder, but I blasted that person who was wrong on the internet – I’m good. I obey the government but I whine about the authorities on social media – I’m good. Because Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, we enter into a relationship with God by mercy and not by law. We gain forgiveness. In our dealings with other people, we have one simple commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.
The greatest thing about that commandment is that I don’t have to judge other people to see if they’re worthy of being friends, all I have to do is love them. Some of them are REALLY breaking God’s laws, but I haven’t been called to judge them, I’ve been called to love them. Since it’s God’s job to judge, and not mine, I can be friends with people who aren’t following God’s law. That’s probably a good thing because I don’t follow God’s law all the time. In fact, I don’t know anyone who follows all the facets of God’s law in the Old Testament all the time. I’d be pretty lonely if I had to restrict my relationships to people who were perfect; I wouldn’t even be able to talk to myself. My call, and dare I say your call also, is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Now, many of the admonitions Paul quotes from the Old Testament are there because they keep us from harming our neighbor; but the positive admonition to love our neighbor should make us think about positive ways to care for others instead of following a long list of things not to do. Make today a day of loving your neighbor and not doing harm to them. Experience that joy that comes from walking with God in this way.
Oh Lord, You have loved me in spite of my sin. You judged me and found me forgiven. Help me to love my neighbor like You do.