Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 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 neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
With Jesus, people wondered which elements of the Law through which Israel lived in covenant together with God were the most important. Jesus drew out two essentials; love God and love your neighbour (St Matthew 22:35-40). Now Paul takes the second of those and uses it to sum up all of the commandments. Love takes priority and acts as the ultimate proof of holy and righteous living. In love all else is fulfilled. It’s a theme he echoes so powerfully in 1 Corinthians 13. Discipleship finds its deepest demonstration in pure love. Of all the Holy Spirit’s gifts, love reigns supreme.
There is so much beauty here, so much demand, so much possibility. Paul follows Jesus in letting the Law become small enough to sum up in a few words, and simultaneously so big that it embraces everything and everyone. We discover our true vocation as the children of God to be love. Paul begins this little passage speaking of what we ‘owe’. We should owe nothing and yet, because our obligation becomes love, we will live with an unpayable debt. For love embraces everyone and means giving to everyone everything they might need to flourish, doing no wrong to others, living gently with all.
Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018 caused the stir it did, perhaps, because he took the world’s hand and dove into the depths of love. He invited us to delight in love’s power. We can. We can let love define us, our churches and our impact upon creation. We must. We must let love transform us, from the inside out, daily. No bold initiative, no project, no scheme, no programme, can top what God will do when we let love define and reveal our discipleship
In love’s name you came amongst us, God who gives us all. In love’s name you claimed us as your own; revealed your will, caught us up into your way. Now you give us another day. Let love be our gift to receive and give; love of ourselves, love of all we meet, love of creation’s fragile glory. In Jesus’ name, who loved beyond limit. Amen.
The Rev’d Neil Thorogood, Principal, Westminster College, Cambridge.