“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12, ESV).”
Within the context of describing the signs of the end of the age, Jesus warns that the increase of lawlessness will be the cause of the hardening of love. This is quite a prophetic diagnosis, for when I look at the symptoms in society today, I don’t have to search far to see a loveless act, and yet, nobody is blaming the increase of lawlessness. Be it an act of terrorism, horrendous crimes, dishonest politics, unethical business practices, extortion of the weak, oppression of the needy, or just the everyday person acting selfish, yet in response to the crisis, our nation has only been interested in passing more laws upon laws that only blur the lines of the values set forth in our constitution.
Let me explain further. Lawlessness describes those who display no regard for the law. Although this could apply to any aspect of law, I believe Jesus is describing a lawlessness that disregards the moral law of God. In just one chapter prior to Matthew 24, He would rebuke the religious leaders for neglecting the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23).” So according to Jesus, there are heavier matters to the law of God beyond their Jewish civil and ceremonial laws that we can’t just ignore in the name of grace. On the other hand, the type of love that He is talking about growing cold is not an Eros love (sexual/erotic/romantic) but an Agape love (selflessness). So in essence, Jesus is saying that because people will lose respect for the moral boundaries established in the Word of God, they will lose respect for one another. Many will become cold-hearted, full of bitterness and distrust, and unwilling to put other lives before their own.
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3:4).”
Jesus summed up the entire Law by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:37-40).” Loving others on God’s terms requires that we possess a deep respect for God, His Word and the people that He has created in His image. The fear of the Lord is the oxygen supply for genuine love because we can only love a person as far as we can respect them, understanding that they were created by and for God. We can’t separate loving God and people from revering and obeying His commandments, for it’s when we forsake the latter that we lose the former.
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Gal. 5:14).”
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).”
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).”
In the passages of Scripture that we call the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus sets forth what I’ve heard described as the constitution of the kingdom of heaven, for in it He lays out the foundational lifestyle values for those who would be apart of this kingdom. Before He elaborates on issues of morality related to anger, lust and more, He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…(Matt. 5:17-19).” Jesus didn’t come to redraw the standard so more people could get to heaven, He came to fulfill the standard so that more of heaven could come to people. He went about calling people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” because He knew that those who said yes would find the freedom, that His perfect sacrifice would pay for, not FROM obedience to His standard, but FOR obedience to His standard (Matt. 4:17).
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18).”
“For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (Rom. 6:19).”
We will either be slaves of lawlessness or slaves of righteousness, there is no in between. The danger with the disease of lawlessness is that it is the only disease that deceives us into not wanting it to leave. Sure, many want to be free from the penalty of sin, but few actually want to be free from sin itself. There is something about our fallen nature that always craves that fruit that we aren’t supposed to eat. Lawlessness has been in the heart of humanity since the beginning, and as soon as boundary lines were given, rebellion became the desired option. This is why God’s plan of salvation is about more than telling us to obey His rules, but it’s about truth setting us free from the lying sway of sin. God possesses the highest quality of life inside of His perfect holiness, and He desires to share that life with us.
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD (Ps. 119:1).”
I began this article pointing the finger at our nation as a whole, but it truly needs to be directed at the person in the mirror. It is important that we recognize the trend of this disease to not only be aware that we are nearing the end of the age, but to accelerate our urgency to seek the cure and prepare our hearts to share it with others. What is the cure? The uncompromising gospel of Jesus Christ. More laws won’t stop lawlessness from increasing, but when we repent and surrender to the gospel, we have the opportunity to put off the old man and to put on the new man created in the image of Christ. Lawlessness is the real enemy of love; therefore, love will only truly win when righteousness is fully restored and Jesus reigns as King.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek. 36:26-27).”
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).”
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3).”