Love fulfills the law

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. (Romans 13:8-10, NIV)

Paul writes in Romans that the law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor. We cannot love a person and also desire to take his car or his donkey from him. We cannot love her and kill her. We cannot love him and have sex with his wife.

So, is this saying that all the laws of the Old Testament that cannot be framed in terms of love of neighbor are void? And does that mean that we need to understand other laws as being primarily about the damage they do or intend to another person?

For instance, in what way is fornication a violation of the love of neighbor? In ancient Israel and early Christianity, I think, a young woman who had sex prior to marriage was no longer a prospect for a good marriage. She might go unmarried. Her family would never collect her bride price and remain obligated to feed her. Is this the reason fornication was considered a sin? It did harm to the woman and her family. Is it cultural? And if so, does that mean that God’s desires for our life are determined by culture? In a culture in which casual sex does not cause social or economic harm to either party, is it still a violation of the law that is fulfilled by love?

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3 thoughts on “Love fulfills the law

  1. I am known as a liberal who says we have to consider culture when we read the Bible to give it context, but I believe casual sex does cause harm. Lust is not a positive emotion and using someone to fulfill this need demotes them to being an object. Secondly, birth control is not 100% effective. Having a baby has far reaching social and economic ramifications.

    • Thank you for your comment, Dick.

      So, if I am hearing you correctly, the issue as you see it has two pieces. First, lust is inherently degrading to the other person. So, that is harmful to the person reduced to the status of object by lust. It also harms the person who allows lust to guide his or her actions?

      I’m not as clear on the “harm” aspects of the second point. Having a baby does entail long-term responsibilities, but is it a violation of the law of love? It seems like your second point is more about utilitarian issues.

  2. Throwing Darts A young lady named Sally, relates an experience she had in a Seminary Class, given by her teacher, Dr. Smith. She says Dr. Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons.One particular day, Sally walked into the seminary and knew they were in for a fun day. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Dr. Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.Sally’s girlfriend drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing pimples on the face. Sally was pleased at the overall effect she had achieved.The class lined up and began throwing darts, with much laughter and hilarity. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn,and was filled with disappointment when Dr. Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats. As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn’t have a chance to throw any darts at her target.Dr. Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus…..A complete hush fell over the as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced. Dr. Smith said only these words….. “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40
    I thought this might apply to the overall question. This was on a site I receive each day. GodVine. We think we love but what is behind the picture?

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