…therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:10)
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jn 13:35)
I recently read a blog post authored by a TJC member who hasn’t attended church in over two years. In the post, the author declares why they left church – because of love, or the lack thereof. Growing up in a church with roughly 800 members, I have heard this phrase many times: “There is no love in church.” Because of the nature of having a large congregation, it is natural that people form friendship groups; and as a result, people do inevitably get left out and feel as though they don’t belong. Coupled with the fact that the congregation predominately consists of an Asian community where the culture promotes and practices emotional restraint, it is true that youths growing up within the western society may feel the lack of emotional support from their church peers and elders.
It is evident that this mentality in the youths persists and, as a result, permeates through different churches around the world. Actually, through studying the Bible, we realise that this problem was evident since the ancient saints of the Old Testament. We find that the same principle is at work.
Firstly, there is the law laid by the truth. The law dictates that we follow the commandments and statutes from God and that any deviation is sin. From the days of old, God had commanded the Israelites to faithfully practice their devotion to God. They would religiously hold the feasts and offer the sacrifices.
Over time, following the law became a mere formality, a mere habit for the Israelites. They had forgotten the God who released them from the bondage of Egypt and they let their love for Him grow cold. As a result, they would often backslide in their faith, sin against God and depart from Him. We find today that we can be entangled by the same proverbial snare. As we attend church, as we serve, as we sing hymns and as we pray it becomes a mere formality, a mere habit. We no longer attend church because we want to, but because it is expected of us. It becomes like a law we follow. As a result, our love for coming to church and our love for serving our brethren becomes cold.
Keeping the law is good: this is what God requires of us. God wants us to keep the truth. However, just merely keeping the law alone cannot save us, it is not the spirit of Christianity. Just as Paul says in Romans 7:1-12: the law makes us aware of sin so we may abstain from it. But he also says that we have now been delivered from the law through Jesus Christ, we now serve in the newness of the Spirit.
What is this newness of the Spirit?
Jesus once said that the summary of His commandments can be simply put in love. Love our God and love your neighbour. Paul also repeats this in Romans 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:13-14 – “for all the law is fulfilled in one word: love”. Actually, the more I ponder the more I realise what a humbling thought this is. Loving our neighbour is easy to say, but hard to do—and quite simply, we (including I) really do need to put more love into action.
How do we put this into action?
The transition from a stagnant, law-abiding citizen to a true Christian is a journey of realisation. John 13:35 states that a true disciple of Jesus is revealed through love. But how do we revitalise our love? We can once again look at the Israelites. The Israelites failed in their faith over and over again because they forgot their love for God and the love of God for them. They forgot how God delivered them from the hand of the Egyptians. Their lives became all about what was narrowly in front of them – keeping the law, survival in life.
To revitalise our love for God, we must first remember our first love and how Jesus demonstrated the single most greatest act of love ever to have been shown upon His creation – His manifestation and crucifixion. Not only this, but look around – everything we have today has been graced to us by the love of our Lord. He has provided everything we should ever need and more from our parents, to our siblings, to our careers, to our brethren, to our materialistic wealth. Everything we have is from the hand of God. Is this not love?
Love is more than just loving each other in the flesh. It incorporates loving in the spirit. We must once again learn to love coming to church for the edification of our brethren. We must once again learn to love singing hymns to praise God for everything he has done for us. We must once again learn to love each other because we want to see them in heaven. We preach because we want to save our friends from the depths of hades. Through this love we support each other, we encourage each other, and we pray for each other. We no longer attend church because we have to but because we truly want to. We want to praise God and we know of someone who really needs our help.
As a result, we find that inadvertently keeping the law no longer becomes a burden. It becomes very natural because, very simply, we love God and we love man. When we love God we naturally abstain from sin. When we love man, we naturally possess the selfless nature of Jesus and serve for the benefit of others.
So, brothers and sisters, today is the day we realise the true nature of being a child of God. It is not mindlessly following the laws of our church or religiously practicing the Bible without a thought for others. It is to love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is to love our neighbours as ourselves. It is love.