The love of law and the law of love

Rob Slane  ·  Feb 01, 2015

The pressure on Bible-believing Christians today to capitulate to the sexual revolution is becoming stronger and stronger. This should come as no surprise, since the agenda of many sexual revolutionaries is to utterly destroy all traces of Christian sexual ethics from society. One way they are doing this is through changing laws—both on the definition of marriage, and through various pieces of “human rights” and “equality” legislation.

But even more dangerous than changes to the law are the pressures placed upon us, where all views which don’t bow to this agenda are stigmatized. And one of the key weapons in this arsenal is the deceptive use of a simple, yet profound, four-letter word: LOVE.

The argument sexual revolutionaries use goes like this. First, God is love. Second, therefore Christians must be all about love. Third, those who live in this “love” are the ones who are in God. Fourth, their opponents are therefore unloving. The way forward is to overcome the prejudice of antiquated beliefs with courageous free-thinking. The unmistakable message is that opposition to the sexual revolution is opposition to love itself.

Of course, this is an abuse of language in every respect, since it makes no attempts to genuinely ask what God’s love actually looks like. But it is also a very deliberate tactic, aimed at producing one of two very different reactions.

The first reaction this tactic is designed to get from those who oppose same-sex marriage and the whole liberal sexual agenda is to drop their “antiquated” and “unloving” attitudes and join the “love” camp, where there is supposedly no prejudice and everybody is filled with the milk of human kindness. It is a powerful tactic. After all, who really wants to be considered ignorant, prejudiced, and unloving?

If this tactic fails to draw us into the “love” camp, the hope is that it will succeed in driving us into the opposite camp—let’s call it the “camp of legality”—where we will hopefully utter thunderous denunciations against the sexual revolution, appealing to the Law of God, so those in the “love” camp can shake their heads, tut-tutting about how legalistic, unloving, and unchristian we are.

We need to be acutely aware of the deception going on here, otherwise we may well find ourselves falling into one or another of the camps: the “love” camp where everything goes and human affections become our highest standard, or the “camp of legality” where we just sit there bitterly reacting to sin and justly earning for ourselves a reputation of lacking love.

This false dichotomy is deceiving because love and law—properly understood—are not opposed to one another, but are inseparable. Even Christians sometimes speak as if the two things were separate, but this is not so. For example, when we are asked about the cross of Christ, we will often talk about the love of God for sinners and then when challenged as to why God has to punish sin, either in the sinner or in Christ the substitute, we will then flip to talking about the Law and God’s holiness.

Now it is true that God’s holiness and His love are both on full display in the cross of Christ, but they are not separate, opposing characteristics. God doesn’t cease to be holy when He is forgiving sinners, and He doesn’t cease to be love when He is punishing sinners. True love is holy and true holiness is love.

One place where Scripture clearly illustrates this truth is where a lawyer comes to test Jesus, asking Him which is the most important commandment. The lawyer probably expected Jesus to answer with one of the Ten Commandments so that he could trip Him up by falsely accusing Him of magnifying one command and minimizing the others.

Rather than picking one of those commandments, Jesus instead cut through the trap by answering in this way:

“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 the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

So that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? The most important thing is love—love for God and love for others—with nothing so petty as law getting in the way. “Hurrah!” says the “love” camp.

But not so fast. Jesus continues:

“On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).

In other words, loving God and loving your neighbor are not the antithesis of law; rather they are the fulfilment of the Law. Love, as expressed by Jesus here, is not some nebulous feeling whereby we judge what is right and wrong on the basis of feelings for others. Rather, love has a backbone and it can be defined: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

In terms of loving God, we can define it as worshipping Him only, doing so through faith and not through idols, honoring His Name and honoring the Lord’s Day (Commandments 1-4). In terms of loving our neighbor, we can define it as honoring our father and mother, and by implication our elders, respecting our neighbor’s person, being faithful to our wedding vows, respecting our neighbor’s property, being truthful to and about our neighbor, and being content with what we have (Commandments 5-10).

Sexual revolutionaries both inside and outside of the Church want to drive a wedge between love and law, so that we are forced to make a choice between joining them in the love camp, where just about everything is permitted, or joining the haters in the camp of legality.

The Apostle Paul teaches us how to deal with this:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Then Paul continues, showing what true love really is:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Paul is uncompromising in stating that certain practices, unrepented of, will keep people from entering the Kingdom of God. But then he goes on to acknowledge that there were some in the Corinthian church who were once in exactly this position, but because they had repented, they were a part of the Kingdom of God.

So where is the love? If Paul is right—which we must surely believe or our faith is based on nothing—then the claims of love by the sexual revolutionaries are not just misleading, they are damnably misleading. They are not only outside the “camp of legality,” but also outside the “love camp.” Is it really loving to lead people into believing they need not repent of some sins?

Paul refuses to separate love and law, but instead uses them in a way that honors both God and his neighbor. He is not afraid to condemn every kind of sin, and to tell his hearers where these sins will lead, but he does not do so merely to condemn those sins or those that do them. Rather, he does it because he really does love those sinners, and really does desire them to repent and be “washed, sanctified, and justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

As the sexual revolutionaries continue their determined march against Biblical truth, we should be on our guard against the deceptions of those who would pressure us into falling into the love camp or the camp of legality. Instead, we should learn from Scripture what true love really looks like.