‘The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.’
That’s quite a clever sentence. For St Paul has already made it clear, over and over again, in the preceding chapters, that he thinks there is only one person who has ever fulfilled the law. And that person is Jesus Christ.
If that is so, how is it that anybody other than Jesus Christ is able to truly love another person? Well, Paul would argue, they aren’t – but that’s precisely the point. Only by Christ dwelling within us through his Spirit are we able to truly love another person. It is not, strictly speaking, therefore you or I who fulfil the Law by loving. It is Christ – the one who never failed in any regard to keep the Law – who loves through us, by the power of his Spirit. When Paul closes out this chapter by saying ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’, that is exactly what he means: Christ within us will fulfil the Law in and through us, and so cause us to love as he loves.
But the urgency of this is great, in Paul’s mind. No matter when Jesus returns to judge the world – and none of us knows when it will be – it is certainly nearer to us today than it was yesterday. In that case, we ought to be more devoted to living as servants of Christ today than we were yesterday, simply on the grounds that today we are a step closer to the end. In the few days that remain of Lent, let us ask ourselves the question: are we as devoted to living for Christ and loving his people as we could be?
These devotions were originally written for the parish of All Saints, Ascot and we are grateful for permission to republish them on Fulcrum.
Patrick is curate of All Saints’, Ascot in Berkshire. A musicologist by training, he is married to Lydia, a university lecturer, and dad to Madeleine. He writes (sporadically) at benedixisti.wordpress.com and tweets (even more sporadically) as @patrickgilday.