It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the laws regulating how we should relate to one another. Yet, combing each letter to find the right way to live only leads us further away from the law’s true spirit.
In fact, we best fulfill the law when we live not by the law, but by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 reveals this hidden truth, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.”
The Jews were given the Law and the Prophets to guide them on what relationships were right and wrong between themselves and God and between each other. However, the teachers of the law became so fixated on interpretations of this written code that they lost sight of the virtuous, intimate relationships the Law and the Prophets were meant to grow.
If we too look only at righteousness according to the law, it wouldn’t make sense that Jesus should heal (by working) on the Sabbath, not condemn the woman caught in adultery and dare to forgive sins without the requisite sacrifice! It would be confusing to hear him say in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Like the Pharisees, we neglect justice, mercy, faithfulness and the love of God (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42) when we look for righteousness in others according to a written code and decide that we have done enough when each checkbox has been ticked. We measure and value everyone by our performance and compliance according to our strict observance of the law.
We fail to recognize that the love of God, expressed in mercy and faithfulness, is how we should experience and receive God in our lives. In like manner, we can then and are to share these virtues with people whenever we relate to them. As we have freely and undeservedly received, we can and are to freely and undeservedly give. As in Matthew 10:7-18, “proclaim the Kingdom of the heavens has already come…freely you have received, freely give.”
When we act with righteousness in the Spirit, we show everyone around us what is meant by the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Truly then, all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:34-40) Importantly, the righteousness in the Spirit begins not when the action is done but from the moment we choose to do it. For it is written: “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Love is the heart and reins of the eternal Triune relationship. Love is the expression of the Triune God. Love was there even before the Law or the Prophets. As such, the law and the prophets hang on and are under love.
Jesus said; “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” (John 15:9) Then, he commanded his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. His command was a paradox – to love as he loved, not under a command. His love is as Father has loved him, freely, out of choice, not out of obligation or under a command.
This fully expresses the virtues of the Son of God who became the Son of man. Having no obligation or law on him to love us, Jesus freely and willingly chose to love us anyway. In so doing, he showed Father’s own choice in loving him and in loving us first. The function of the Law and the Prophets is to point us to and remind us of this choice God has made to love, and the choice God makes every moment to love us with goodness, faithfulness and truth.
When we join ourselves with Jesus and grow into his life, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit and live more freely, graciously and righteously than we ever have.
Choose freely and join Jesus in receiving and expressing love.
Bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Against such, there is no law.