You remember that time when Jesus was asked what was the great commandment in the Law?
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
So there it is. Love God, love your neighbor. If you browse through various evangelical churches online, you’ll find these two commands echoed, over and over, as themes and purpose and mission. Love God, love people.
You’ll hear sermons on how we need to love God more, and love people more. Ten ways to increase your love of God, three practical steps to love people.
Yet if you’re honest with the context, Jesus is very specific in what he is laying out: law. Law, in the sense that you are not affirmed by it. It isn’t what you accomplish. The Bible clearly says that no human being anywhere will be accounted good in the sight of God by doing law. Law doesn’t give you something to accomplish. It stops you. Law exists to show sin.
So how in the world has this become the mission statement for churches? “We are on mission to accomplish the law?” What?
Confusion, that’s what we’re fighting. And the confusion is over what our mission really is. Our mission is not to accomplish the law, and we are not enabled to do so. We affirm it’s truth, we affirm our Savior’s commands as right and true. But they don’t strengthen us, these statements of law. They reveal our weakness.
And this is the way of the cross. This is the way of salvation. To hear the law, and die. And to see our savior, and live. When Jesus gives a new command, to love as he has loved, we see yet again that we cannot love as he loved. And we marvel that he does love in spite of our undeservedness. We are left with trusting that he has loved us totally and completely, shown on the cross, continuing to this day.
We hear the good news that he has done everything we need, that the work is finished, that we are secure. And we believe it. That’s faith. We grab hold of the word of God’s love even though we see our ugliness. Gratitude and wonder and amazement, they are ours. Not because we have done anything, but because we haven’t. We’ve received the gift.
The law is beautiful and good. And it always condemns. And to the heart that is broken, there is another word. The word of the gospel. We receive the body broken and the blood spilled. We hear the news from a distant land. We who ought but don’t, receive a love undeserved, more than we could imagine.
So please don’t make the church’s mission to fulfill the law. Except as an exposure that we don’t. We are more broken than we know, and the law helps us know more. And we are more loved than we can comprehend, which is what we always need to hear. Thank you Jesus.