“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
Just as Paul is becoming more and more descriptive in the contrast between the new walk of believers and the way they used to live, he stops. Lest he give a new list of rules to abide by—a new law—he goes back to what he teaches everywhere and in all his writings: the new standard for behavior is love.
Every time and everywhere the community of believers has ceased to be the church and become just another religion, it has been as a result of attempting sanctification through prohibition. The “do not’s.” Instead, Paul reminds us that all behavior can be measured by the simple comparison to the example of Christ. Christ showed the unselfish love of God in everything he did and we are to follow that example.
The worst thing about empty, religious churches is that they become so obsessed with sanctification through behavior that they begin to impose (or attempt to) their standards on non-believers. This is a vain effort on two levels: (1) only God can change people; the behavior comes after the change. And (2) people whom God would reach through the witness of believers are instead alienated through unreasonable demands believers impose on them. All the while, such churches are eating each other alive because it is easier to observe and judge others by a legalistic standard than it is to make the effort to rule one’s own conduct in love.
When Paul boils the Christian walk down to “do love” he is not simplifying matters. This is a harder thing to do than simply keep a list of rules. Unfortunately, no one ever said living as God would have us live is an easy thing to do in this reality.