Loving the Law - Arrival Series [7-19-20]

Updated: Aug 25


Here what Paul says in Romans 13:8-10:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.


"Owe no one anything, except to love." What is it called when you owe someone something? Right…a debt. How is love a debt? How does it relate to love for God? And how does this relate to John 15:12:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

How does the kind of love God creates in us bring Him glory? This is especially important in light of current upheavals by non-Biblical social analysis that ignores the basic truth of sinful human hearts. Systems and institutions aren't the problem…it's the unconverted hearts of the people in those institutions and systems. We're going to look at the bigger picture. How does the kind of love God creates in us bring Him glory?


First, how is love a debt?


As Paul says in verse 8, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other." So, first of all, as we saw last week, every debt you pay…including the IRS…let it be an act of love. We can do that, right? Don't compartmentalize love…I love my family, my close friends, my church, those kinds of things…love isn't segmented from other areas and acts of your life. As 1 Corinthians 16:14 reminds us, let everything be done in love. Pay everything in love.


So, the big question is, how did we get in this debt of love? Your mortgage, car payment, student loan payment, you know how you got in that debt. Even deeper, how did it become a debt that we love our enemies? That's a more challenging debt of love we owe.


Here's something to think about. Normally, we owe a debt to someone because they've given us something. But lots of people haven't given us anything. We don't even know them. We haven't even met them. The good Samaritan in the parable Jesus told in Luke 10 didn't know the Jewish man left for dead on the side of the road. The near-dying man had never done anything for the Samaritan. Samaritans were generally disliked. So how did the Samaritan become a debtor to the wounded man? In the arena of love, how do you become a debtor to the people in this room you don't know? Or the people out in the world? Very strange.


Here's the thing. Simply thinking about love as a debt seems weird. If I invite you out to breakfast just because you took me to lunch, that's hardly out of love. It may be a debt payment, but not love. Love is supposed to be free. If I'm simply treating you nice because you treated me nice, Jesus says it isn't a big deal. In Matthew 5:46, he says, "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?" What's funny is one of his disciples was a tax collector.


Why do I owe you love if you have given me nothing? Why do you owe me

love if I have given you nothing? How did we get into this debt? How does all this work?


Romans 1:14 hints at why we owe love to each other:

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

The Greek word translated obligation means literally "I am a debtor." Jesus Christ has imposed this obligation on Paul. It's not because of anything the world gave him. In fact, the world continually hurts Paul. Yet he continues to pay his debt of love.


And here's the source of that debt:

Through whom {Jesus Christ} we have received grace and apostleship to bring about obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.

- Romans 1:5

Paul hadn't received anything from Jews or Gentiles. What he received was grace…free grace…from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So the debt he owes is to God which he pays by freely sharing the good news that Christ died for sinners and that salvation is God's free gift for those who trust in Jesus Christ. That's Paul's payments to all people.


Does it make sense to you? Paul owes the debt of love and we owe the debt of love because of all that Jesus Christ has done for us. Everything Jesus has done for us, we do not deserve. When Jesus Christ loves us freely and takes away our sin and guarantees everlasting joy in him, we become debtors to all people.


Okay, so what about owing a debt to Jesus? We do give him all the praise and honor and glory, but the debt of tangible love we give to others. Why? Why others and not Jesus? Two simple reasons. What Christ has done for us is a debt we cannot pay back. And besides, Jesus never would have and never did ask to be paid back. That would be impossible because our debt to him is infinite. How horrible would it be to think we love others in order to be loved and honored by God?


Here's something you might want to write down:

Our love to others flows out of what Christ gave us and not from

what others gave us.

That's why it is love freely given. Our love is rooted in the mercy we have received from Christ. Our debt was sin, which God freely paid in the death of His Son on the cross. And the debt of love we give to others is nothing they've earned. Rather it is a gift we owe them because it is a gift we have freely received through Jesus Christ.


Here's how John put it in 1 John 3:16, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for others." The word translated "ought" literally means "debtors." And then, in 1 John 4:11, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Again, "ought" is literally "to owe or be in debt."


So the simple truth is that the debt of love we owe to everyone did not come about because they gave us anything, but because Christ has given us everything.


Let's now move on to the end of verse 9, where Paul writes, "You shall

love your neighbor as yourself." He's here quoting Jesus in Matthew 22:37-

40:

And he said to him, “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.”

Our love for others spills over from our love for God. The satisfaction we have in God motivates our love…our paid debts…to others.


Now for a deep insight. When Paul quotes Leviticus and Jesus - "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" - what do they all mean by "as yourself"? There's been a lot of pop-psychology, self-esteem insight slapped onto loving your neighbor as yourself. You've heard it, right? You can't love others until you've learned to love yourself. How many parenting classes and self-esteem-boosting exercises have talked about helping people learn to love themselves? You can't get right with others until you learn to love yourself.


Here's where that perspective completely misses the mark.

We need to read, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," more accurately as, "You shall love your neighbor as you {already} love yourself." For Leviticus and Jesus and Paul, it's a given that we love ourselves already. This passage has nothing to do with helping people love themselves.


Everybody loves him or herself regardless of how we estimate their self-esteem. You'd be hard-pressed to prove otherwise. Everybody wants food to eat and will do almost anything to get it rather than starve. Same with water when thirsty. Everybody wants to avoid serious injury and death and will do almost anything to avoid them. Everybody likes to be praised. Most things we do we do to earn praise. Everybody seeks happiness, however they define it. In these ways we show how we love ourselves.


Let's compare and contrast what the world says about loving oneself with what the Bible teaches.


Some people think it's insightful to say, "Stop loving yourself and start loving others." Channel all those longings and cravings and desires into fulfilling your duty to love. But that's not what James or Jesus or Moses or Paul mean when they say to love others as you love yourself. Loving your neighbor as yourself is a radical command. Paul isn't saying to shut-off your desires for your happiness and start, by the sheer force of willful self-denial, dutifully love others. Paul says to take that deep, unstoppable, primal, powerful desire to be happy and make it the measure and the means of making others happy.


As Paul uses it in Romans 13, that short, little, two letter word, "as," is the operative word. Love your neighbor as yourself. "As" means if you are energetic in pursuing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are creative…if you are persevering…if your are enthusiastic…in all the ways you pursue your happiness, be that way in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor.


In other words, seek the same things for your neighbor that you seek for yourself with the same energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and perseverance. Generously pursue the happiness of others. Are you lonely? Walk alongside someone who is lonely. Are you fearful? Find someone to comfort. Do you want to do well at school? So does your neighbor, so help him or her. Do you see how it works?


Love isn't just a duty. It's more than that. Love for your neighbor is to be pursued with the same kind of desire that you have for your own happiness. And here's the amazing thing that happens. This is all part of God's plan and design. When the happiness of others becomes our deepest desire, we don't lose anything, but instead we gain more joy. That's how God works. The more we give up, the more we gain. We get back what we give up. Joy and happiness are gained as you love your neighbor as yourself.


Here's something else you might want to write down:

YOU FIND JOY IN THE JOY YOU BRING TO OTHERS.

More than anything else, gladly give of yourself to make others glad in God. May God work in us this most amazing kind of love. Amen.



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