Text: Romans 13:8-10 June 26, 2011
1) Who is my neighbor? One of the major obstacles to show our love is making prejudgments about who we think is worthy of our love and compassion. Jesus told a story to answer that simple question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Who qualifies as worthy of our acts of love? In that Good Samaritan story, Jesus stressed on the Samaritan did more than the laws required of him: anyone in need is your neighbor.
2) Love over the law: The audience of Jesus would have grasped at this because they know the Jews despised Samaritans. He could have limited his love because that man was a Jew. But he did more than the laws had required of him to that dying man as worthy of his love and help. Are we limiting our love and kindness only to the ones we deem as worthy?
LOVE AS A DEBT: (13:8)
1) No outstanding debts: “Let no debt remain outstanding.” (13:8a) In the Bible, there are a lot of teachings about debts and pay back of debts. Jesus asked that we settle our debts before the judgment. He said, “Tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matt. 5:26) Also in Matthew 18 and Luke 12, Jesus reinforced this point. The Bible discourages borrowing except in very difficult time for surviving. When you are indebted to someone, you are like selling your dignity to be his servant. (Proverb 22:7) If you need to borrow for survival, pay back your debt with your next paycheck. Always pay off your debt before you buy anything not of necessity.
2) Continual debt to love: “Except the continuing debt to love one another.” (13:8b) Few of us see to love is an act of paying a debt, an unending one, but that is exactly what Jesus wants us to know. Usually we see to love or not to love is an option, so we don’t feel guilty if we so choose not to love someone, especially someone we don’t like. But God has a different idea about Christians love each other. He sees it as a debt we need to “continue” to pay non-stop. The moment we stop love one another, we stop being his true disciples. (John 13:35) The world doesn’t care how big our church is or how correct our doctrines may be. They care how much we can love and work with each other and this is the debt we always have to pay.
3) Love fulfills the law: “For he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (13:8c)Fulfilling the law or the requirement of the law is the highest goal of the Jewish people. No one may truly fulfill all the requirements of all the law. Jesus was not trying to simplify or cut short or water down the law in saying this. He was trying to put something that supercedes all the law in the land and that is to continually love our fellowmen. If one truly loves everyone around him, he won’t do any of the law-breaking actions in the following verse, 13:9. So, loving one another does fulfill the law. If we can put loving others our first consideration of decision making, we will fulfill the law.
LOVE AND THE LAWS: (13:9)
1) Laws of the Commandments: The Apostle Paul listed four of the Ten Commandments in this verse, all related to treatment of our neighbors. God gave us the Ten Commandments to keep us from do harm to our fellowmen. Quoting the Commandments is a very effective way to draw the attention of the Christians of the early church. Everyone respected Ten Commandments. By putting part of the Commandments in this verse to compare the importance of love is a very wise step. If we truly respect the Commandments, there is a new law that is equivalent to the old Commandments: that new commandment is love. If we love our neighbors, we have fulfilled all the commandments.
2) And all other commandments: “And whatever other laws there may be.” (13:9b) In every nation of the world, we all have laws to govern or regulate the behavior of the people to keep peace and protect life and property. This is in assumption that people will not govern themselves not to harm others or to respect and keep peace with neighbors without the laws. But laws and regulations can only regulate the behavior or action on the outside, can’t do anything to regulate their intent on the inside. God knows that if we have love to our fellowmen there is no need to have either the Commandments or any other laws. Often times we try hard to keep our actions or behavior in line with the law, make sure we don’t break any. But God asks much higher than that. He asks that we have a changed heart on the inside than the change of actions on the outside.
3) All laws summed in one rule: “All are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbors as yourself.” (13:9c) This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 in reference to fair treatment of neighbors in legal system or in personal dealing. Jesus echoes this in his teaching. (Matt 5:23; Luke 10:27) No one needs to learn how to love himself. We love ourselves naturally and generously. God asks that we love our neighbors the same way as we love ourselves, starting from those in our family to our classmates, coworkers, relatives, friends and people in our church and everyone else who may have contact with us, we love them the same way as we love ourselves. Love others is the “total” of observing the law.
LOVE AND ITS OUTCOME: (13:10)
1) Love, not harm or evil: “Love does no harm to neighbors.” (13:10a) Kakon in Greek means evil, harm, bad results. “Do no” is ouk ergazetai in Greek means the outcome or result of what you consider on the inside, the intended result of your heart. When we love someone, we will not consider evil thoughts to generate harmful outcome on our neighbors. This is about the intent and its outcome. How do we know we love someone, check on your intent and the outcome of it? God always cares about our intent on the inside than the outcome on the outside. In both cases we need to make sure there is love as the basis, the starting point. Love is a marvelous thing.
2) Love fulfills the law: “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (13:10b) Paul gives us his explanation why or how love fulfills the law. Because love intents no evil, no harm on others, love is kind, love is patient, love doesn’t envy, it doesn’t boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs, love rejoices with truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves and love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Wherever there is love, there is no need of the law.
3) Love builds lasting life: At the end of his famous Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus declared: “Therefore, everyone who hears my words and put them into practice, is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds brew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25) Now we have heard the words of the Lord through His servant Paul. It is up to us if we want to put them into practice or not. It is obvious that here is the right choice, the best choice to build our lives on love: Love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind and all our strength; and love our neighbors as our selves. People in our homes, churches, schools and community.
1) That one thing we must do: When Jesus told his disciples how important it is to love one another, he said this: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By doing this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Obeying the laws is a good thing, but love our fellow men and women, family, friends, coworkers etc is much better. In fact Jesus said this is the one thing we must do.
2) Knowing and doing: By now I am sure we all know what we need to do. Next step is “just do it.” Start from your family and your church, school, office, friends and neighbors. One at a time, show your love in thoughts, intent, words and deeds.