"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."
Romans 13:8-10 NIV
Paul just got finished exhorting the Roman church to submit to the authorities, pay their taxes, pay their bills, and show honor and respect to those who deserve it. This section of Scripture is a snapshot depicting that God has established an orderly system under which the world functions smoothly. Without these parameters the world would surely be pure anarchy.
Then Paul moves out of the realm of earthy authority and conduct and begins to exhort the Christians in Rome to let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. He is challenging us to live higher and better, and do more than simply do what the authorities in this world expect from us.
As God's children, we have a higher standard to uphold. The standard of love is the highest standard this world has ever known and ever will know. For the Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8 that above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
It is easy to see sin, it is easy to condemn people and find fault, and then spread slander and gossip about an individual. It takes effort, however, to look beyond all of that and see the best in someone. Furthermore, we must be very intentional to see people for not just who they are now, but to see them for who they can become, having compassion on their current situation, and having love for them despite their shortcomings.
God has asked us to see one another through a different set of lenses than what the world uses to look at people. 2 Corinthians 5:16 says that from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view; that though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. You see, we no longer view people from a worldly, carnal, mortal standpoint.
God calls us rather to look beyond a person’s flesh and see them through the lens of eternity. To look beyond current behavior and see the power of God flowing through an individual and changing them each day more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Instead of being a tool that Satan can use to tear that person down, God wants to teach us how to pray, love, and encourage an individual so that we might be a part of the process that God uses to build that individual up; that we might share in the joy of witnessing that person becoming all God has intended them to be.
For if we desire and seek the Lord, He will draw us closer to Him, and the closer we come to Him, the more we must move further away from our own sin. God’s Holiness and our sin cannot dwell together; so as we move closer and invite more of God into our lives, He asks us to clean more and more stuff out of our closets and from underneath our mattresses so to speak, so that we can enjoy greater and greater levels of intimate friendship with Him.
God is patient with us, so we ought to be patient with others. We are all a work in progress, and it is through Christ’s love that we have become whole ourselves. It is God’s will for us to love and to live under His banner of love and protection. For just as God has set up healthy parameters within society for Christians to live within for our own safety and well-being, God has also set up parameters within His kingdom for us to live within for our own spiritual safety and well-being. God uses governments, judges, and police officers to enforce the laws that control everyday conduct in society, but God is the one who enforces the law of love in the lives of His children through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
When your children are fighting and they are not fulfilling their obligation as one another’s sibling, you have to come in as a mediator and reinforce the attitude and mindset within your child that he or she should love his or her sibling. If this were not the case, how could your home run smoothly and how could you set an example of decency and order for the neighbors that live around you? In the same way, God is the Father of His home and His children as we all collectively live together under the umbrella of the Body of Christ.
Our neighbors, who are the unsaved individuals that live around us, are watching our conduct and how we treat one another. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” - John 13:34-35 NIV. Unbelievers having the desire to come join our family and be our brothers and sisters will depend greatly upon how well we love the brothers and sisters we already have. If we are bickering and backbiting at one another, becoming envious and jealous, showing anger toward the family we currently live with, who would want to come and be a part of that kind of environment?
We as Christians are God’s hand extended to the world around us and God’s love inside of us is what makes His fingers move. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we do God’s work in the earth, but have not love, then we are nothing. What Paul is getting at is our heart and our motives must be pure. If I give to the poor so that I can be recognized by men in this life and get a merit badge from God in the next life, then I’m really just loving myself. But if I give to the poor because my heart is broken with compassion and empathy, and my giving is from the overflow of that desire to help, than my love is truly genuine and worth something.
If the world was window shopping and was deciding whether or not to become a Christian, I picture two windows on either side of a store front. The manikins in the window are clear so you can see through to their true feelings. In the window display to the right the manikins are Christians who are standing face to face with their arms extended toward one another showing love to each other with joy and sincerity in their hearts. In the window display to the left the manikins are standing there with their backs toward one another, with expressions on their faces of enmity toward one another and with hearts that have been dried up and blackened by hatred and hostility. Now, the hard question for all of us is . . . which window would you say you’re standing in?
Has someone offended you and you have allowed your anger and resentment to grow to be such a monster that it is literally taking over your life from the inside out? We have an obligation to love, and to love deeply – and like I said earlier, the only way to truly love is to see a person through the eyes of God and His eternal perspective.
Let’s face it - to love in the world we live in has become more and more difficult. More distractions, more things vying for our attention and our affection means there is less to go around where it is needed most. Unfortunately our jobs are so emotionally taxing that by the time we get home at the end of the day we feel unable to pour out to the ones we love the most. Likewise, by the time we arrive at church on Sunday morning, we feel we have little to offer. But God is our source of love. We pray to God for strength and for health. But how many of us pray to God to give us more love for those we will interact with? We must rely upon Jesus to fill us with the love we need so we in turn can show that love to our Christian brothers and sisters.
Love is mentioned first when the Bible lists the Fruit of the Spirit. As we fellowship with the Lord and walk moment by moment with the Spirit as our guide, then the overflow or fruit of that intimacy with the Lord will yield the fruit of God’s great love.
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