Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
What should be a Christian’s attitude toward others? Romans 13:8 says it should be Love. The initial statement is a continuation of the responsibility of Christians to pay their debts. Our debts show up regularly in the form of bill, you pay them, but like weeds, they just keep coming back. There is the electric, gas and water bill, the fuel bill, mortgage payments, insurance bills, credit card bills, car payments, on and on. When we don’t pay our bills the mountain of debt piles up and we can get buried, not knowing which ones to pay first. The issue of handling money is more than a financial issue it is a spiritual and moral one because its use or misuse affects others. Paul tells us that we must do what we can to be out of debt but there is one debt which will always remain due. It is a debt we can never pay off, our obligation to love others, it is a debt that will owe until the day we die. While we live, we get to pay this debt as often as possible, as much as possible, and to as many as possible. Paul calls us to live within our means without being mean by reminding us of the:
- Debt of Love
When you look at your bills it is a reminder of what you owe and Paul reminds us that we owe love, it is our primary debt. There is something in every one of us that wants to diminish this requirement either by saying I have done enough or by limiting who we do it for. Yet Jesus taught in Luke 10:25-37 that our neighbor includes the person that God places in our path that has a need that they are not capable of handling. So there is no limit to who we should love and on the amount we love we can never say “I have loved enough”. With love we will never get to the point where we have sacrificed enough, given enough of our time, energy, money, and efforts, been kind enough or even patient enough. No matter how loving we may have been in the past, we’re still indebted to love. We can never repay the love Christ showed us on the cross of Calvary but we can love in all of our relationships.
- Discharge of Love
Paul says loving others is about what we do or do not do, not with how we feel, there is an important message here; loving others is a matter of action, not emotion. Loving others does not mean that we will always like others but that we will show them love in what we do and do not do. Paul is talking about agape love, unconditional love that is a choice to behave in a certain way, not necessarily because of feelings, but simply because it is right. Paul says that love fulfills the law and several specific commands from the Old Testament are quoted to substantiate this fact. The first four are from the Ten Commandments (Exodus. 20:13-15, 17) while the fifth is from the sacrificial law (Leviticus 19:18).
Loving another means not commit adultery because such sinful defilement of a person shows disregard for another’s purity. Love highly values the virtue of others and will do nothing that is morally defiling. The same principle applies just as obviously to the person who would commit murder or who would steal. Love does not rob others of their life, their reputation, or their property. Coveting is an envious desire to possess what belongs to another and does not always have an outward manifestation, when we covet, sometimes God may be the only one, besides ourselves, who is aware of that sin. Love does not covet but instead is grateful for the gifts, abilities, talents, and blessings that others possess. Love has no part in any unrighteousness and there is something about doing the law of love that empowers us to live out a holy life while keeping us from focusing on the negative. God asks us to concentrate on the positive of loving our neighbor which fulfills the law rather than on the prohibitions or the negative events which break the law. Are the “do not’s” that break the law your focus or is it on fulfilling the obligations of love?
The expression, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” merits an observation. It is easy to get the idea that self-love is wrong, but if this were the case it would be pointless to love our neighbors as ourselves. Even for those who have low self-esteem, they don’t willingly let themselves go hungry. They clothe themselves reasonably well and make sure there’s a roof over their heads. They try not to let themselves be cheated or injured and would even step up if someone tried to ruin their marriage. Paul is saying this is the kind of love we need to have for our neighbors. Do we see that our neighbors are adequately fed, clothed, and housed? Loving others as ourselves means to be actively working to see that other people’s needs are met, not just our own. It is also important to note that people who focus on others rather than on themselves rarely suffer from low self-esteem!
- Design of Love
The major point of the paragraph is then repeated in the last part of verse 10. “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law. When we see someone we owe money to, what dominates our thoughts? “I owe them money.” What if the same though came to mind when we met others “I owe him or her love.” Often this is not our thought pattern because we are either focused on ourselves or why that person doesn’t deserve love. Yet the truth is that Jesus paid our sin debt because we were flat broke and couldn’t. We have been loved so much by God that our lives should be an overflowing of our experience with Him. When we love others we do not have to fear becoming empty ourselves because we are loving them through the overflow of the cross. As we extend God’s love to others we not only make them the focus, we tell them that they are important. As we establish their dignity and importance we make them bigger. God’s design is for us to love one another, it is the basic principle of the Christian life. Who is God calling you to love, have you made that love payment recently?