When our Lord Jesus is raking the rich young ruler over the coals, He starts with a five-commandment combo: “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.” And then He finished him off with the right hook of love. “And, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:18-19) Pow!
“Love” sounds like such a nice word, a kind word, but it is really very deadly. When we understand “love” aright, we understand that it is the law in it’s fullness, 200 proof. Imagine you have one of those fruit dehydrator, the machine that sucks all the moisture out of food. Now, imagine taking the Ten Commandments and stick them in the dehydrator. The Ten become Two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31). If you leave these two commandments in there for even longer you get down to just one word: “love” (Romans 12:8-10).
Love is so deadly because it demands everything, every though, every ounce of strength, every move and word, to be directed toward our neighbor’s good. And none of us has given everything. I keep a list of things to do: take our the trash, clean off my desk, write a sermon. I can check these things off the list. But there is one thing I can never check off: love. Never can I lay down my head having loved my neighbor as myself. Love, then, always and in every moment accuses me of my sin. The command exposes my weakness, my pride, my self-centeredness, my utterly sinful nature. Love accuses, and so love kills. And in that way, the “word” is a mass murderer.
But, dear reader, killing is not the only thing that the word “love” does. It all depends on whose doing the loving. If the love is mine, then I’m doomed. But there is one who loves completely, who loves with every ounce of strength he has. There is one who spends his life for another. There is Jesus, and He is love. He loves with a perfect love, a complete love, and His love is our salvation. That love, the love of God, gives life and salvation.