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28th June 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs
Sermon for Sunday 28th June 2015 - Trinity 4 Proper 8
Jeremiah 11.1-14
Romans 13.1-10

In a week when we have – yet again, - seen what damage is done and hearts broken when people act out of the emotion of hate, it is good to be reminded that at the heart of our faith lies Love. “Love is the fulfilling of the law”. And – whether you approve of it or not, the law – at least the civil law concerning love and marriage is changing rapidly. And with the recent ruling of America’s Supreme Court, that change is probably irrevocable. Psychiatrists will tell you that all anyone ever wants at heart is to be loved. And I think we all know and understand the intrinsic truth of that statement? And I think that is why we in Europe and North America have seen such a change in social attitudes towards those who love – whether that love is based on conventional opposite, or same sex attraction. When it comes to relationships, most of us like to know where we stand.

We don’t feel comfortable not knowing whether others like us or don’t like us. We feel better if we have some clear evidence, some way to measure, where we stand with others. Maybe that is why we find ourselves more comfortable with the law being the fulfilment of love, than love being the fulfilment of the law. The statement, “love is the fulfilment of the law,” does not mean the same thing as the statement, “the law is the fulfilment of love.” But that is not what Paul is saying. He is saying that love fulfils the law. A person can keep the law without loving. But one cannot love without the law being fulfilled in them. The law gives instruction in the ways that one who loves will live. But the difference between the law and love is that love works from the inside and the law works from the outside.

A person motivated by love does not need to be told to behave in a loving way; a person motivated by law does. Maybe that is why we tend to get uncomfortable with the idea that faith in Christ has superseded the law. We fear that unless there is an outside agent, the law, compelling us to behave rightly, we probably won’t. We know our love is weak, so we don’t trust ourselves to behave with love without a threat of unpleasant consequences as motivation.

he problem with that is obvious: Love cannot be compelled, forced, coerced or threatened into being. Love is freely given and freely received, or it isn’t anything at all. Love is unconditional; anything short of unconditional is something other than love. It might be acceptance, it might be approval, it might be pleasure, it might be happiness, but it is not love, because love has no conditions. That is why our “love” is so easily strained when the people we love fall short of our expectations and demands—as they invariably do. We fall short of theirs, too. But we usually expect them to overlook and understand the ways we fall short of their expectations. In either case, what we call love is often stretched thin by the failure of either party to measure up to what the other feels is the right way to behave. When we allow the demands and expectations of the people we love, however unreasonable they may be, to dictate our lives, we are not free, but imprisoned. Likewise, if we withhold our love from others, making it conditional upon whether they are at any given moment pleasing us or doing what we want them to do, then we are being manipulative, not loving. When we love others, we love them for who they are, not for what we want them to be. More precisely, as Christians, we love others for who God has made them to be in Christ, not for who we want them to be for us. It is only when we drop the selfish habit of withholding love from others until they adequately please us, that we can also free ourselves from the