8 Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. 9 The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself.10 Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.
It seems entirely possible, even likely, that we’ve made Christianity too complicated. Didn’t Jesus sum up the entirety of the law with just two rules: Love your God and love your neighbor? And Paul here says just love, period.
If only this were as simple to practice as it is to say!
Love is hard, because it demands of us things we often don’t feel willing or able to give, like forgiveness when it doesn’t seem to have been ‘earned,’ or grace when the same ‘mistake’ is made for a 23rd time.
Sometimes it also demands something equally difficult: accountability. It’s hard to draw boundaries. We don’t like feeling like the “bad guy” when we have to say “no” to something. But that too is part of love – love of self and love of the other. When we fail to set boundaries, we’re not taking care of ourselves. And we’re also robbing the other person of an opportunity to take responsibility and grow!
Sometimes Christians will say in exasperation, when they feel like the church is getting something wrong, “just love everybody!” That’s a good impulse, and we always need to give priority to that direction. But it’s seldom as simple as we want it to be, otherwise we probably wouldn’t be arguing about it. In every situation, we’ve got to step back and consider what love demands of us. Often what love requires is anything but easy to discern.
Jesus’ teachings may be simple, but living them seldom is!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Are there issues or questions that once seemed very black-and-white to you, but now are more gray-ish? What happened that changed your view? Where was God in that experience?
On some level, it’s easier to follow a set of very well-defined rules than to live based on a big idea like “love your neighbor as yourself.” Why do you think that Jesus came preaching this message?