Imagine the following domestic scene:
Bullied Sibling: Moooom! Tell him to stop kicking me.
Tormenter Sibling: I’m not kicking him.
Mom: Stop kicking him.
<10 seconds elapse>
Bullied Sibling: Moooom! He’s hurting me!
Mom: I thought I told you not to kick him.
Tormentor Sibling: I didn’t kick him.
Bullied sibling: He pinched me.
Mom: Don’t pinch him. Or kick him.
<10 seconds elapse>
Bullied sibling: Mooom! He put his finger on my apples.
Mom: Don’t touch his apples!
<10 seconds elapse>
Bullied sibling: Moooom! He’s giving me a mean look!
Mom: New rule—DO NOT LOOK AT HIM!
<30 seconds elapse>
Bullied sibling: Moooom!
Tormentor Sibling: I didn’t look at him, touch his apples, or even touch him!
Bullied sibling: He’s humming and laughing at me!
Mom: STOP IT! NO MORE humming. Or singing. Sit there.
Don’t move a muscle, or so help me I will tell your father
and we will hum over a shallow grave.
<5 minutes elapse>
Bullied sibling: Moooom! He won’t play LEGO with me.
Mom: Play with your brother. NOW!
Tormentor Sibling: But I thought you said I shouldn’t look at him.
Mom: Alexa, initiate regular BevMo order.
This totally un-relatable and far-fetched scenario describes the acute relationship that the Law has to Love. If the heart does not love, then the Law must prescribe loving actions. But it is an endless task because the rulebook must always be updated. For every new law that is externally obeyed, the perpetrator will find some other annoyance to accomplish his mission of mean.
What if Mom simply said, “Love your brother. Make him feel loved. Have all of your actions, words, sounds, and life show him that you are oozing love for him?” The post-fiasco interrogation for the Tormentor Sibling is devastatingly simple: “Were you being loving to your brother?”
A simple biblical idea: the absence of love generates an endless list of rules. The presence of love embodies all of the rules.
Remember how The Big Ten Commandments begin by saying, “Hey, there, I am the Lord your God. There are no other gods. I’m the One with enduring, non-conditional, gracious (steadfast, ESV) love. That’s Me. Let’s start here.”
When Jesus quizzed a man about recapping all of the Law into the Biggest, Greatest Rule(s) Evar, the man answered correctly, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
If Tormentor Sibling’s heart was changed to truly love his brother, the need for rules vanishes—not because the rules vanish, but because love automatically lives them out without checking the codified statutes. A changed heart would mean that he would follow a million more laws you haven’t even made up yet.
But therein lies the conundrum. How do you change a heart? You certainly don’t follow all the new rules and assume you are loving. You don’t try your way to love. None of us learned love that way. We learned love by being picked up. Nuzzled. Held. Fed. Gently tickled. Delighted by eleventy rounds of peek-a-boo. Rocked. Burped. Wrestled. Dad-tossed into the air. Forgiven.
We became loving by experiencing love.
We become loving by experiencing love.
The active righteousness of Jesus means that his entire Law-abiding life stemmed from gushing love and affection for His Father. He wasn’t consulting the 10 Commandments every morning for a diagnostic check. His passive righteousness means that he was gladly obedient to follow His Father’s plan to the Cross—yes, because He loves us, but also because He loved His Father and was immovably sure that His Father loved Him, too.
As we feed on His love and love others in our path, give thought to a few questions:
1) Am I experiencing His love or am I trying for His love?
2) Am I generating an endless list of rules for those I am loving?
3) Am I prescribing law upon law as I try to build loving-ness in others?