No Substitute for Love
There is no substitute for love. Jesus made it perfectly clear that loving God and loving people the way God loves people are the most important commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). Loving God and loving other people fulfills everything the Law and the Prophets told us. All the other religious trappings and religious things people get caught up in and worried about are not the point—love is.
The Apostle Paul understood this. He wrote in Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He’s saying that all spiritual requirements are fulfilled when we love God and love other people. It’s that simple.
It’s interesting to see how Paul begins his famous love chapter (1 Corinthians 13:4–8). In the first three verses of the chapter (1 Corinthians 13:1–3), he quickly lets us know about love’s supremacy. He lets us know that there is no substitute for love. He is telling us that even supernatural gifting doesn’t compare to the power of loving God and loving people.
Paul was a Pharisee. He knew all of the religious rules, but he didn’t have love. He knew how to be religious. He knew all six hundred and thirteen Old Testament Laws. He knew the right way to wash the cup. He knew it all.
After Paul came to Christ, however, he was a new man. He learned about true, God-focused, love, and for the first time he could say, “Listen, you can follow all the rules but if you don’t love people it doesn’t matter a lick. If you are not loving God, it’s all worthless.”
There is no substitute for love. It’s the supreme commandment and what God wants to know is, will you do the tough job of loving the unlovely? Are you willing to give love to nasty, mean and sinful people? That’s God’s litmus test for all of us. He’s not interested if we get along in our little group—He wants us to love Him and love the unlovely. He’s not interested if we know how to wash the cup or keep the Laws—He wants us to love Him and love people, especially the unlovely.
The point, God’s point, is love. We don’t have to earn it. He loves us and because He loves us, unconditionally (that means with all our nicks and dents), He deeply desires for us to love Him and other people. It fulfills everything. It’s supreme and there’s no substitute for it—love God and love other people.