You Owe me!

Romans 13:8

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Or do I owe you? Perhaps you have heard this verse taught before. If so, great! Most of the teaching I have heard on it focuses on being debt free, i.e. owing no one. Except we do owe and the debt we owe is love. Paul really wrote a blockbuster statement at the end, but I think it may have slipped by us. He said that all the obligation of the law is met if we love our neighbor. Does that even make sense? Can we really fulfill the law by loving one another? Seems crazy to me.

Let’s look at the Passion Translation, “Don’t owe anything to anyone, except your outstanding debt to continually love one another, for the one who learns to love has fulfilled every requirement of the law.” Wow! We have a continuing debt to one another. Ooops, that means I owe you, doesn’t it? Watch out though, you owe me too. This translation points out that love can be learned. It must be a skill then because you cannot learn emotions or characteristic traits. That is encouraging. Even if you are not a person naturally given to loving others, you can learn to be like God in this respect.

I want you to see the amplified version of this verse too, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love and seek the best for one another; for he who [unselfishly] loves his neighbor has fulfilled the [essence of the] law [relating to one’s fellowman].” Embedded within this expanded view of the Greek words, we see a definition of love arising. It is the significant piece which has run through these several days of “love” focus. Here is where we learn, specifically, what God has in mind when He tells us to love others. God only deals in agape love (see yesterday’s Word of the Day). Jesus’ actions gave practical meaning to the word love and he told us, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you,” (John 15: 12). In other words, we are supposed to emulate Jesus and his love the same way he copied the Father. The question arises, however, “How did Jesus love us?” The answer is in the Amplified version where it reads, “seek the best for one another.” That means putting the other person’s needs in first place, ahead of your own. Love is not selfish. Jesus loves us sacrificially. He gave what we needed rather than what he needed. Most of us love as is convenient to us. We love enough to get what we want or need. As long as the other person is supplying our needs, we love them. Jesus showed us a different way. Even when no one stood with him, when his closest friends denied him and betrayed him, when the people he came to save stood in the marketplace and cried out for his crucifixion, even then, Jesus put himself on a cross. Jesus prayed for the people who strung him up, prayed for their eternal souls. That is what love is. Love is not selfish or self-seeking.

We have an eternal debt to each other. It is never filled, never satisfied. I owe you a debt of love and I want what you owe me. The Father is the source of love, so we only need to take from Him and spread it around. It sounds easy enough, but it is a challenge. I believe, though, if we will take our minds off of ourselves and put them on Father, Jesus and the sacrifice they made for us, the love they have poured out to us, then we too will be able to spread His love. It sounds gooey. It sounds a bit weird, but we need to get used to this idea that you are supposed to love me. I am supposed to love you. God said that is the only debt we are to have between us. It is an ongoing one, though. If we will learn to love one another we will not need to fear the condemnation of the law.  Love will also give us the power to evangelize the world.

Lay Down

John 14: 21

He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.

Here is a motivational scripture for you. Would you like for Jesus to disclose himself to you? And don’t we all want to be loved by the Father? Jesus has broken this down into simple terms for us. Keep His commandments, be doers of His Word and you will have all of Jesus as your own. He will make His life with you; His home with you. He will be your ever present companion; your ready aide. He will fill your heart with love and your life with power and goodness.

As is typical with the things of God, though, the first step is ours. We see that the will of God is to come and make His abode with us, but we must do those things which allow Him His desire. Namely, we must keep His commandments. This is not difficult to figure out though it can be difficult to perform. Jesus made it simple. Love the Father with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love other people even as He, Jesus, has loved us. How did Jesus love us? “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 12). Since Jesus was willing to lay down His life for us, ought we be willing to lay down something for our friends? Can we learn to lay aside our egos and self-interest? Can we lay aside some time? Maybe we can give out of our busy schedules, time to someone who needs a hand with something. Perhaps we can lay aside for a short time that which is important to us so that we can do something for someone else. God is not asking us to go to the cross, but He is asking you to lay down part of your life for someone else. Maybe it is just an hour to go visit a friend. Maybe a friend with the flu could use some home cooking. It really doesn’t matter what God is asking you to do, but Jesus has made it clear that it is the expression of love that He wants from His disciples. When we show our love to God’s beloved, we show also our love for God.