When we were reading the book of Matthew, I noticed this line from Jesus: “Because of increased lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12). So, on the inverse, does increased lawfulness lead to a warmer love? That got me started thinking about God’s law really is and the effect it ought to have on us.
Loving God is important. It is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36) and we know that a loveless relationship is bleak and joyless. Sometimes, though, knowing how exactly to love God seems impossible.
But, the Bible gives us guidelines. As we read the New Testament, look at how Jesus lays out ways to express love for God and others: love your enemies (Matthew 5:44-45), deny yourself (Luke 9:23-24), ask in faith (Mark 11:24) . . . these imperatives are sprinkled throughout the narratives about Jesus’ times on earth.
Compare these to the “tradition of the elders” that the Pharisees were criticizing Jesus about (Mark 7:5). Tradition and ritual are important (and often beautiful) parts of culture. The Pharisees excelled at upholding them, and Jesus was not necessarily bashing them; He exposed the heart of the matter, by quoting the prophecy in Isaiah 29:13. Instead of loving God, according to tradition (v. 8), the Pharisees were adhering to the tradition of men: seeking a sense of having saved themselves (self-righteousness).
The laws God offers are ways of expressing love for Him, instead of ways for us to try to save ourselves. Each aspect of all of this merits its own study and meditation! In the meantime, may we stay open and diligent in accepting God’s grace and executing the Scriptures He left for us to obey.