February 24, Wednesday
The Word Commands*
Romans 13:8-10 (NRSV)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one 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 neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
The degree of difficulty is huge when love is a command rather than a suggestion.
A command takes away options on love, particularly when it is used as the base for all other commands. It eliminates the appropriation of love.
Many of us prefer love as a noun. In that way, we can treat it like a beautiful bouquet. We can place it on the mantle of our minds. As we point to the occasional flowering blooms, we can marvel at the beauty of the love we possess, that we prominently display it on our terms and we don’t have to do anything other than water and fertilize it from time to time. We can even spotlight it during certain seasons and even set aside one day a year that we can decorate it with hearts and celebrate love with candy, flowers, balloons and fine food.
However, Paul, reflecting both the Old Testament commandments and New Testament marching orders of Jesus, has made love a verb.
As a verb, love requires action. It is high maintenance. It requires an object, which is our neighbor. The difficulty is intensified when neighbor is described as everyman.
There are no conditions. When love is a verb, the object is open-ended. The practice is active and constant.
When love is a verb, it draws us to the very nature of God and provides a foundation for what it means to be human and created in the image of God, “For God so loved the world that He gave…”
When love is a verb, it provides a way to counter the challenges of the forces that move against it: fear, hate, indifference, prejudice, vengeance and intolerance.
When love is a command, we don’t have a choice of whether to practice it.
What is the opposite of love? Hate, fear, indifference, all of the above, something else?
God, help us not just admire love and accept love on our terms. Help us live it and give it unconditionally on your terms.
By David McCollum, former CBFAR Coordinating Council member
Deacon, Second Baptist Church, Little Rock
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