Christian Living

Love Doesn’t Trump God’s Moral Commands

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 06/06/2024

Ms Rachel, a YouTuber who posts learning videos for toddlers, made waves this week when she posted a video celebrating Pride Month on TikTok. After receiving some backlash, she explained her position this way:

My faith is really important to me, and it’s also one reason why I love every neighbor. In Matthew 22, a religious teacher asked Jesus, “What’s the most important commandment?” And Jesus says to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. There’s no greater commandments than these. I believe it’s mentioned eight times: Love your neighbor.

So, yes, everyone belongs, everyone’s welcome, everyone is treated with empathy and respect. It doesn’t say, “Love every neighbor except….” There are so many reasons I stand strong in love. I stand with everyone. That’s who I am.

It’s not unusual for people to cite the second great commandment as if it trumps God’s other moral commands: “See? What God wants most is for us to love. That’s what’s most important, so that’s all we should worry about.” But this is simply a misreading of the text.

When Jesus said, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” he didn’t mean that love for God and neighbor should somehow trump the Law and the Prophets; he meant the Law and the Prophets exist for the very purpose of teaching us what love for God and neighbor looks like.

Consider these two passages that state this plainly:

Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. (2 John 6)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. (1 John 5:2)

Sometimes what Paul says in Romans 13:8 is used to support the idea that love trumps God’s commands: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Again, this is interpreted to mean that we don’t need to worry about all of God’s outdated moral commands—all we need to do is to love others. But listen to the passage in its context:

He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this [i.e., for love], “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:8–10)

It is for love that we follow the commandments! The commandments are there for the very purpose of prohibiting the things that “do wrong to a neighbor” and promoting the things that do right. This means that true love is defined for us by God’s commandments. It’s a false love that redefines what is good and bad for our neighbor apart from God’s revelation of his moral laws.

The reason for the confusion about this among Christians comes down to an equivocation on the word “love.” Too many Christians have been catechized into our culture’s understanding of love, and they’ve simply absorbed the new definition without realizing it. Love 2.0 now means acceptance and celebration, and if one of God’s moral laws seems to oppose acceptance and celebration, then obviously the second great commandment to love-2.0 your neighbor should trump that law. In other words, now love 2.0 trumps actual love.

The sad truth is that anyone who rejects God’s moral commands in order to love has missed love altogether. Love doesn’t trump God’s commands; it’s defined by them.