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Speaking the Language of Love - Arrival Series [7-12-20]

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

With the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent quarantine, tax day was pushed up to July. How appropriate that today's message is built around Romans 13:7-14, beginning with verse 7:

Pay to all what is owed them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

This was neither planned nor intentional. Pretty cool that it worked out this way, especially since we all love the IRS and paying our taxes. Amen?

Anyway, Paul takes up our duty to civil authority in Romans 13:7. What's interesting is that Paul takes up the cause of respecting governing authorities and paying taxes after taking a deep dive into love and renewal. Chapter 12 filled with charges to let love be genuine, love another, outdo one another in showing honor, be patient in tribulation, and so forth. He ends chapter 12 with, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with


So what should we say? Should we say that Paul's high-minded chapter 12 on love and its expressions and requirements end at the last verse and a new direction picks up with chapter 13? In other words, is chapter 13 a detour from chapter 12 and the theme of love? Or is what Paul says about submission to civil authorities another expression of love?

Consider what Paul establishes in chapter 12. Through the saving work that Christ did for us on the cross, God is now doing a great work in us. God saves us and He saves us for a purpose. The present work God is doing in us is based on the past work God did for us in the cross. And both past and present works are preparing us for heaven. Does that makes sense?

In the grand sweep of things, it's easy to say that Romans 1-11 tells the love of God for us through the work of Christ. After that, Romans 12-16 defines and describes how that love is lived out as we love others. It can best be summed up by 1 John 4:11 {A principle of understanding the Bible is that the Bible interprets itself}:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

How do we treat people with love?

Let's make sense of it with verse 7:

Pay to all what is owed them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Two key words there. First one is "respect." "Respect" is from the Greek word phobos. You can hear an English word in phobos, right? Depending on the context, it can be translated as "reverential fear," "deference," "trembling concern," "respect." In this context, it carries the sense of respect. The second word is "owe." "Owed" is used in a positive way. You do owe taxes or revenue or repaying a debt. It is something that is done in a decent and ordered society.

That is the context for verse 8:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Those are the things you do, in a positive way, even in a loving way. So

Romans 13 is built on Romans 12.

Verse 8 is about paying what you owe. We've already covered the specifics. Yay, taxes, right? And here's the interesting part. When it comes to things like honor and love and respect, it's not a one-and-done. You can't pay those things and be done with it. They're the gifts that keep on giving. Taxes, each tax year or transaction, you pay and you're done. You pay off a debt and you're done. You don't owe them anything else. But a debt of love never gets paid up and is done with. We owe love no matter how many love payments we make.

Make no mistake. The jump from Romans 12 to Romans 13 isn't disconnected. Love is the ethic that resonates within honor. So it's safe to say just as love doesn't get paid down, so, too, honor doesn't get paid down. 1 Peter 2:17 puts it this way:

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

I think Paul is saying something radically profound here. We understand the love part. You can't get out of the debt of love. If I love you now, I owe you love this afternoon, and tomorrow, and next Sunday. You get the point.

But here's the radical nature of what Paul is saying. Here's what's true for devoted followers of Jesus Christ. If you honor someone this morning, you still honor them this afternoon and tomorrow and next week. You love and you honor, and you owe no one anything, except to love each other.

Here comes the challenge of the gospel. As everything Paul says about love in verse 12 intersects with honor and respect and duty and obligation in chapter 13, we can only reach one conclusion:


Let that sit there for a moment. Any time you have a debt of honor, it should be paid in love.

So Paul is saying…and there's something that bites in this…every debt you owe to anybody; whether taxes or revenue or respect or honor; let it be an expression of love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:14, "Let all that you do be done in love."

Do you owe the IRS money? Do you write the check angry, or gloomy, or

with an irritated spirit? Write the check in love. Same with your mortgage or your rent or your car payment. Have you ever borrowed something and then forgotten to return it? Suck it up, and in humility and love return it in love. When we are walking with Christ, we are willing to bear and endure any hardship that doing right requires. Here's how Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In other words, we have a glad willingness to bear and endure any hardship required by doing what is right. Amen? Think about how this speaks to wearing a masked in enclosed public spaces. Do we do it with love in our hearts?

So don't think that love is limited to certain people you have in mind. Love

is more than an expression of one person to another. Love is a mindset. It's an attitude. Love is an orientation of spirit and intellect that produces behaviors that are good for people. Notice how Paul describes love as inner dispositions before becoming outward actions. Love is patient, kind, is not envious or boastful, love is not arrogant or rude, it is not selfish, it is not irritable, not resentful, does not celebrate wrongdoing, love rejoices in the truth. These are all internal dispositions.

Here's the sweeping application. That same disposition…that same mindset…ought to be there when you submit to the governing authorities. When you pay taxes, love should be your mindset. When you see the posted speed limit, love ought to be your mindset. When you vote, love ought to be your mindset. Remember, as followers of Jesus Christ, we think in a way different from our culture. We speak a different language. Let every obligation and responsibility you fulfill be an act of love.

I hope you can see how chapters 12 and 13 describe the enormous, challenging responsibility of being strangers in a strange land. Let everything be done in love. Let your heart and mind overflow with these traits of love. In everything you do, let there be love.

One final thought.

Romans 12 and 13 form the framework out of which we navigate turbulent times. It's easy to fall lockstep in with conventional wisdom or prevailing opinion or outrage over some of the things happening in our culture right now. It's another to conform attitudes and actions to God's Word. What shapes how we think about our place in this culture? What language do we use to speak about the times we live in? Do we adopt the language of our unredeemed culture? Do we embrace the secular analysis of attitudes and actions that can only be addressed through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Do we appropriate the language of an unredeemed culture? Or do we speak the transformational words of the gospel to a world mired in its wickedness?

As followers of Jesus Christ, we build our lives on these words from Romans 5:8:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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