I was once convinced of the veracity of the statement “rules without relationship breeds rebellion.” I understood that love was the missing ingredient, but I didn't realize that the need for rules would be fulfilled if love was present.
I ought to have realized this, as I would often write of how Jesus fulfilled the law. I also knew unequivocally that the two greatest commandments that fulfill all the law are to love God and love people. However, my knowledge of this was trapped in my mind and had not traversed to my heart.
My knowing was not really knowing at all. I could write all about it, but I didn't really get it. I've come to understand that I have not abandoned my relationship with the rules. My thought was that if we introduce love, then love will compel people to obey the rules.
But when a husband loves his wife, he knows what things may bring her pain, disappointment, or fear. He will not do these things, not because she has given him a rule book to follow, but because he loves her and cares about her heart. This is love. Love does not need rules, but if there were some, it would fulfill them just by maintaining the way of love. A husband who loves his wife does not need to be told to be faithful to her, he wouldn't think of being otherwise.
Just the same, love is great enough to cover a multitude of sins. If a wife loves her husband, she will love even when his love grows cold or his feet stumble into a path that does not protect her heart. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. It is always faithful and true. It always hopes and perseveres.
Many look at I Corinthians 13, famously known as the Love Chapter, as the criteria one must follow to love. Instead, it is the description of what love looks like. There in lies a significant difference. The former way of thinking lends one to trying to preform the way of love by following the rules, the latter is realizing that love is present or absent in your heart. When you see what love looks like, you can realize if you know this kind of love or not. The passage is not the rules of love to follow if love is missing, it is the fruit of love that can only come from tangible contact with God's love.
The more one has experienced His love the more their love can look like His. This is why a strand of three chords is not easily broken.
We will wear ourselves out trying to follow rules of love. It cannot be done. Such a life is inauthentic. It is a life of performance, an actor upon a stage. It is an exhausting show to maintain no matter how sincere one is. When we do what is right so the other person does not leave, or so that they do what we want in return, we do not have love. When we withhold love when they have hurt us, we do not have love.
From a young age we begin relationship with rules even when those rules were given to us by those who love us, we learn following the rules is the good life, and breaking them will hurt. We were not designed to be captives. We are created to have free dominion. The only way freedom can reign is if our hearts are healed and we live out of healthy hearts that are not afraid to love and do not get knotted up when someone breaks the rules.
Jesus did not lecture the woman caught in adultery. He protected her from the punishment of breaking the rules and sent her on her way, simply stating, “go and sin no more.” She did not need external punishment, but internal experience with love. Experiencing the love of Jesus protecting her from those who would condemn her was enough to free her from continuing sin.
The more I see what love is all about, the more I see how far away I am from that standard. At the same time, I also see how getting there is about resting, not trying. The more I rest in the Father's love, the more His love will flow from my heart.