As Christians, we are free because our relationship with God is rooted in love. What the law demands, God accomplishes through the death of his son, and therefore sets us free from the law. This is the greatest act of love. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:2-4).
Love is the righteous requirement of the law that is not fulfilled by us, but “fulfilled in us” who walk according to the Spirit because “the fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23).
Love cannot be forced, and that is the whole problem with the law demanding love. This is why God found it necessary to set us free from the law, and so being compelled by his love for you, he sent his Son Jesus to do just that. “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus Christ] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-40).
At one point or another, we have all seen how powerless the law is to produce love. Perhaps we cringe a bit when 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s great ode to love, is twisted to speak of eros when Paul speaks of agape. Eros and agape are two different kinds of love distinguished in the Greek language used for writing the New Testament. Eros is the erotic love between a man and a woman that has its place in the marriage bed, whereas agape is the love of God most often compared to the love a father has for his children. The love spoken about in 1 Corinthians 13 is the love required by the law, agape and not eros. However, agape and eros often find they have a common conundrum when it comes to the law. Even as grade school students at the awkward school dance or field trip, a boy knows he cannot command love from his crush. The best he can do is show his love for her and hope she reciprocates. He works up the courage and asks her to dance. He shows his love for her by braving humiliation in front of his friends. All too often, this instinct to avoid the law fades when it comes to marriage. Husbands and wives try to hold each other to oaths made at the height of erotic delirium and bring each other to court. Want to see how powerless the law is when it comes to love? Go talk to a family court judge or divorce lawyer. There is little hope left for love once the law gets involved. It is even more heartbreaking when it comes to estranged parents and children. The law demands love, and love demands freedom. Love “does not insist on its own way.” (1 Cor. 13:5)
Without freedom, there is no love, and without love, there is no righteousness because the righteous requirement of the law is not met where there is no love. So just as the law can only bind and arouse sin leading to death (Rom. 7:5), only love acting in freedom can awaken love in those who love has as its object. So it is that God who is love sent His Son to die for us to free us from the law. “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) This love sets us free even from the law’s demand to love because only then can love reciprocate. So “we love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
The love God showed for us in the death of his Son continues in us because we remain his children as long as we are incorporated in the body of Jesus through faith. So also we as Christians continue to live free, free from the law, and free to love. Or, as Bo Giertz expresses it in his commentary on Romans: “To believe means to come to Christ and be united with him. Then one is ‘in Christ Jesus,’ and then ‘the law of sin and death’ has expired. It is this law that says, ‘He who sins shall die.’ It has been suspended by ‘the law of the Spirit of life.’ This is the new order: we do not need to die because the Spirit ‘gives life’ (2 Cor. 3:6). He creates faith in Christ. His law says, He who believes in the Son shall not perish.” (Bo Giertz, Romans, A Devotional Commentary, Pg. 47)