Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for theone 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.
In the increasingly secular age in which we live, it’s rare to hear comments about love. It’s more likely to hear people speak or post or write in ways which express condemnation and judgement. At the same time, there’s a debate about freedom of speech, and how far people should be allowed to say whatever they want, however critical this might be of others, whose ways and understandings are different.
Even in the Church, there can be an emphasis on ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’, without pausing to think about our mutual belonging in God and the need to listen to one another and what God might be saying through the other person.
The role of law is also under debate. Are laws being passed which benefit the wealthy rather than the poor? How far should people live solely in obedience to the law?
Today’s words in Romans express a different way of life and a wider interpretation of law. The issue is not so much about the details of the law, as the underlying understanding of the values by which the law is to be interpreted. Love is at the heart of what God offers. It’s not an easy offering. It’s completed sacrificially in the life of Jesus.
We’re invited, firstly, to receive this love whole-heartedly for ourselves, just as we are. In the midst of all our internal struggles about our value and our worth, we find our meaning in God’s loving gaze upon us.
Then we’re sent out into God’s world to live this love out for others. This is our first step, not to judge or condemn, whether it be family, friends, neighbours, people further afield, or God’s whole creation, but to love. In this way we offer God’s life to others, even in the most difficult and troubling times.
Gracious God, may I see Your loving gaze, upon me and upon Your world. Help me when I struggle to know I am loved. Give me strength to live day by day in Your love. May I reach out to friend and neighbour and stranger, not in judgement, but in love. As I find joy and hope in Your love, so may I share and work for this joy and hope in Your world. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch is a retired minister and member at St Andrews URC, Ealing.