The Fulfillment of the Law

Love is the fulfillment of the law, we hear in today’s readings. That all sounds lovely, St Paul, but what exactly does that mean? What does it look like?

Some formative years were spent in an environment that was, in retrospect, a very healthy combination of people who disagreed on how to love thy neighbor. There were those who thought that love and condemnation could never go hand in hand, that love meant to allow and accept everything. On the other hand, some thought that correction of error was the height of Christian love. To let someone remain in sin was sin itself. So they would assume the world’s (or, more realistically the campus’) prophetic voice, calling out the perceived demons around them while the rest of us huffed and puffed that they could be so cruel and unloving.

The truth, like most things, is somewhere in the middle. As an educator and minister, I would be hard pressed to say that correction is never needed. Sometimes correction is the best way to show one’s love. But my inner looseygoose always comes out, whispering “don’t be judgmental. Don’t assume you are right” and that most odious of stock American tropes “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”.

To correct, or to permit? All that time I was observing culture wars on campus, I never asked the right questions. To correct or to permit is incidental – what matters is to love. I try, now, to love people. I have good days and bad, but I make an effort to open my heart to affection and compassion. I suppose I fail more than I succeed.

Even as I write that I don’t know if it is silly or pompous or something else entirely. It’s the truth, though, and by living that truth I have learned that end gaming our agape is pointless, fruitless. I can’t decide what the outcome of love will be before I embark upon it. I have to allow myself down the messy, unpredictable path of loving my neighbor and trust that the result will be the fulfillment of the law.

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