Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. (Romans 13:8, CEB)
This whole passage, from Romans 12 to 13, has kept my mind going for quite some time. Without our lives being a living sacrifice and our minds being completely transformed (Rom. 12:1,2), the rest just doesn’t follow. But IF we live in the power of the Cross and all the Spirit to transform our minds, there is something incredible that is possible.
In the context of Romans 13 and the view of governmental authority, I am struck by the stance Paul takes. Even in Roman times, the call was to submit. Let God deal with the leaders. THEY have to answer to God. Let God truly take care of the rulers. I am not particularly a fan of that, quite honestly. I’d rather have a coup. 😉
Thinking over a couple of Old Testament examples on how to view true enemies, I think of the very different roles of Daniel and Jonah. Daniel rose to great levels of influence within the Babylonian regime. They were the enemy. Nebuchadnezzar was always lumping in Daniel with the rest of the magicians. Yet, Daniel stayed loyal to God and to his king. In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. When Daniel received the interpretation he knew it meant bad news for Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel had some choices to make. He could let the interpretation stay hidden, he could tell the king the interpretation and just chuckle about it (out of sweet vengeance), or he could try to help Nebuchadnezzar out. He chose to try to help out his enemy. He let Nebuchadnezzar know that if he would repent the dream wouldn’t be fulfilled. Daniel did not have to do that.
Yet, he truly loved his neighbor. He looked out for the highest good. (We have so convoluted that “love” thing. We think it’s just giving people what they want.) He wanted Nebuchadnezzar to choose the right way.
Then there is Jonah. He hated Nineveh and was quite happy to hear God was ready to wipe them out. He wasn’t happy God wanted him to go preach to them. He knew if they repented God would relent and Jonah would rather see Nineveh burn.
We have those choices in our own lives. We can know what is ahead for someone who we may not like, or someone that just doesn’t like us. How do we approach that situation? Do we relish their possible demise, or do we grieve over their choices?
The debt of love is not some fake emotional response. The debt of love is incredibly hard, especially if it is in the context of dealing with enemies.
Which path do we take? Daniel or Jonah?