While in college, I remember having a long, intense conversation on the concept of law in the Bible with my roommate, David Pyke. (Dave went on to get his Ph.D. and is now the dean of the School of Business Administration (SBA) at the University of San Diego. He was/is one smart dude!)
I do not remember the specific issue. It might have whether it was possible to be a pacifist and a Christian, whether one could every lie to a friend or whether one must worship on Sunday. What I do remember vividly was that we agreed on the ethic of love. Love was Jesus’ great command – love your neighbor as yourself – and Paul’s great summary of the Christian duty.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10
Throughout my pastoral ministry, love has been the guiding light in many situations. For example, I have been with a critical ill person in the hospital and the family faced a difficult decision: whether or not to remove their loved one from life support machines. The physicians have done all that they can do and the chance of recovery is extremely small.
Occasionally a family member would think that they were breaking the commandment, “You shall not kill,” since the removal of life support almost certainly meant death. Yet after much prayer and conversation, the family began to understand that maintaining “life support” in such situations was rarely life, but only a form of prolonged death. The Biblical commandment to prohibit killing was not written in the context of modern hospitals and their agonizing choices. The difficult but “loving” choice at times can be to remove “life-support.”
I realize that the rule of love can be viewed as fuzzy and manipulative, an ethic of convenience. I want to be clear that it is NOT simply doing what I “feel” is right. Paul gives us an extended definition of love in his letter to the Corinthians.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.
Jesus gives us the pure example of love when he died on the cross, taking our violent sin upon himself.
To love our neighbor is rarely easy. It is not simply being soft-hearted. Love requires a strong spine as when a parent needs to confront a son or daughter with the need for rehabilitation when the child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Yet that confrontation needs to be done with compassion and grace, seeking the healing of the son or daughter. Love seeks the very best in and for others.
How does the rule of love impact your daily life and decision?
Lord Jesus, give me the strength to love as you have loved me.