“And because of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.” – Mt. 24:12
A favorite song of ours is “Give Me the Bible” which describes the Bible as “law and love combining.” This is a good description of God’s truth, but I get the sense sometimes that some Christians believe that these two things, like opposing forces, do not go together. They believe that the Gospel of Christ is about love only, and any discussion of what we have to, or must do, is akin to preaching graceless law. So how do we understand that “law and love” combine?
When Jesus warned the disciples of the coming judgment on Jerusalem, one of the signs of the time would be cold hearts: “because of lawlessness, the love of many would grow cold.” With the increase of lawlessness, there would be a chilling of men’s hearts. This effect might be manifested in intangibles like a lack of trust and kindness in mankind. And why would this happen? Because of “lawlessness”! For love to prosper and flourish, there must be the structure and consistency that law and order provide. Jesus said “if you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15; 15:14). According to His words, one follows the other the way that lifting one end of a stick lifts the other end. It is impossible to say we love Jesus if there is no obedience. And it is not possible to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is why the Apostle Paul refers to his mission as bringing about the “obedience of faith” because faith and works cannot be separated (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).
If we live in a country of laws, then love can flourish because laws create the environment for people to prosper and be benevolent, to trust, and to love. And when we preach, we need to preach the Gospel of Christ that calls for an obedient faith to receive His gift of grace. It is not inconsistent to preach the love of God and obedience to it.
Before I go, let me make one more point. The critic will now try another tactic of challenging this thesis by pointing out that evil laws can have the same negative effect on love. The critic is still trying to prove there is no correlation between law and love. Now it goes w/o saying that bad law is oppressive, but that misses the point. Bad law may exist alongside the lawlessness described by Jesus. The lawlessness described by Jesus is related to a period of godlessness where the law that remains is not just. The upshot is that unjust law and lawlessness do exist together. The implication of Jesus’ words is that the teaching and upholding of what is true and just helps to create the environment for love to flourish.