The Debt of Love

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?

TRULY Loving Our Neighbor

One of our texts for Sunday is Romans 13:8-14. As I walk through this passage I am struck by the attitude we are to take toward people we really don’t like. This follows on the heels of Paul’s admonition to pray for those in authority over us in vv. 1-7.

In a society like ours where we have such freedom to complain about our government, it’s easy to take some of this and think, “Well, I’ll pay my taxes and then I’ll back to slamming the opposite party for … ” (pick your topic and your slurs here).

But Christians are called higher. Here is how I am toying with different illustrations right now, so let me know your thoughts.

It would be someone more on the Democrat side of the ledger (and a Christian) who usually heaves spite and pejorative words on Republican actions deciding to not only STOP doing such things… but going to WORK for such people.

Turn it around.

Someone who thinks you can’t possibly be Christian and vote Democrat actually applies to work for President Obama and gets the job. And then, as an employee of the administration the job is then to make the President look good… and they do that job to the best of their ability.

Why?

Because the obligation of the believer is to love the neighbor. To look to the highest good of that person.

Lest you think I’ve just fallen completely off my rocker and injured my head beyond repair… I offer up the biblical examples of Joseph, Esther and Daniel. Three godly people serving in enemy “administrations” and looking to the good of the ones they served. And they did it because of being “slaves” in those regimes.

Believers live higher.

I also think of this in light of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I cannot dictate the response of the US government. Should another 9/11 attack hit our nation’s shores, I simply can’t predict or demand of our government a certain response or lack of response.

But I know what I can do.

I can choose to not blame my Muslim neighbors and I can still go out of my way to show my care and love for them.

I think too often, whether we are “liberal” or “conservative” as Christians in America, we still don’t get this “loving our neighbor” bit down. Liberals scream at conservatives to be more loving. Conservatives just tend to scream. But then we just kind of duck our heads and lay low.

In other words, we act like the world all too often.

The gospel calls us higher. When will we truly put on Christ?