If you love me, keep my commandments.—John 14:15
This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded.—1 John 3:23
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”–Galatians 5:14
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”–Matthew 22:37-40
All of my life, I’ve seen the Bible presented as a rule book. While there are guidelines in the Bible, when upheld as rule based, we end up with a legal document that is researched and parsed to find the minimum standards of conduct to be accepted by God. From this perspective, unconditional love gets marginalized and replaced by a performance based love. This love is shown mostly to those who act, think, and agree with each other. While outreach may be possible from this perspective, it is only pursued with the intent to convert someone to “our” ideology. This intent may not be malicious, but it is misguided. We show people to Jesus’ love, not a list of rules. As I’ve stated before and as the verses above spell out, the Bible is God’s love story to us. When read from other angles, it becomes confusion, manipulation, and chaos.
From the above verses, we can see that even the Old Testament laws were stating this love relationship. Yet, the Israelites only focused on rules to uphold externally. When we fall in love with God, we uphold the law by Jesus’ fulfillment and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. When we only uphold external standards, we often fall, languish, and rededicate in an endless cycle of performance while forcing these laws on others so we feel physically safe and morally superior. Living by the Holy Spirit makes “following the rules” easy and even enjoyable, but that love has to come first, otherwise we will not be able to uphold the law by our human standards as Jesus spells out in Matthew 5:27-47