“These—and other such commands—are summed up in this one
commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love
does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the
requirements of God’s law.”
Food For Thought…God’s requirements for us are pretty simple really—just love everybody like we would want to be loved. That means we would love them when they deserved it, and even when they didn’t. We would love them when we felt like it, and even when we didn’t. We would love them not just in word, but we would love them in action. We would love them like they needed to be loved, like God loves them, like the creatures of a Creator who created them inherently worthy of love.
If we would just do what God created us to do—love—I have a feeling that 99% of the issues we wrestle with, the relationships we struggle over, and the trouble we find ourselves in would be taken care of. Love—that’s the cure for what ails you!
So where and how are we supposed to live out this life of love? Paul gives us three relational arenas in Romans 13. The first area has to do with our relationship to the government—what you might call the civil arena (verses 1-7).
Here Paul says God expects us to respect our government and its leaders—something that we often find hard to do. We are to observe the laws they establish; view them as God-ordained instruments for order; submit to them not only as an act of civic duty, but as that which is necessary for a clear conscience; pay our taxes; and give them honor and respect. In fact, over in I Timothy 2:2-3, Paul takes it a step further and says that we are even to pray for our governmental leaders,
“Pray for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our savior…”
When I think of some of the government administrations and leaders that I’ve endured during my lifetime, what Paul is asking seems like a tall order. But keep in mind that Paul wrote to the Roman believers about respecting and obeying government under some pretty awful leaders like Emperor Nero and his evil, profane, murderous ilk. If Paul could see these Roman Emperors as God’s instruments in his life, then I will have no excuse when I stand before God some day for my attitude toward my leaders.
The second area has to do with our relationship with our neighbors—what you might call the social arena (verses 8-10). Here Paul simply calls for loving actions toward those with whom we are in some kind of daily interaction—the people we live by, work with and sit next to in the pews at church. We should do nothing that would provoke anything other than a loving response from them back toward us.
The third has to do with our relationship to God—what you might call the salvation arena (verses 11-14). Here Paul reminds us that one of the leading motives, if not the only motive, for living a life of love in all the arenas of our life is for the simple reason that Jesus is coming back soon, and we will then have to give an account for how we have behaved in relation to our government and its leaders, our neighbors and our God. Because of the soon return of Jesus and the revealing of our full and final salvation, we must be continually alert to living in purity and holiness. In short, we are to “clothe ourselves with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 14), which is Paul’s way of saying that we ought to live each moment as if it might be the last one before we find ourselves standing before Christ. Love would demand no less in light of what he did to secure our salvation!
Love! Do that and you’ll be just fine—in this life and in the one to come. Just love God with all your heart, and when you do, you cannot help but love everybody else. Do that and you’ll fulfill all God’s requirements.
One month before his death at age 65, C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter addressed to a child, “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so.”
That’s great advice!
So here’s a thought for you: If you knew Jesus would come back 24 hours from now, and knowing that love is the ultimate requirement of God’s law, who and how would you love?
Why not love like that anyway—you never know, this might be you last opportunity!
Prayer… Father, thank you for loving me, even when I didn’t deserve it and in spite of the fact that I didn’t love you. But your love won me over! Now I ask that you would help me to love everybody else like you loved me. Make me aware of attitudes that do not reflect your love, and alert to opportunities to express your love in tangible ways to people that cross my pass. Help me today to fulfill your requirements to love!
One more thing… “Love, and do what you want.” —Augustine