Wednesday in the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Romans 13:8-10

Owe No One Anything but Love

Paul begins this section with a line which is almost humorous: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”  Now this sounds like an easy thing to do until one thinks it over.  This is why I say that it is almost humorous; after all, to owe love to other people is actually a heavy debt to pay, unless one is filled with the Holy Spirit.  And this becomes even more obvious when Paul defines this love according to the Ten Commandments, which commandments we could not fulfill in the first place, which is why we needed a Savior.  Our nature just doesn’t do this naturally; we require a new birth.  Paul is again reminding us that justification by faith does not leave us with nothing to do.  Granted, the law does not and cannot save us, but it is still relevant as a useful guide to the life we should live, especially when it is driven to the motivations of the heart as Jesus both showed and demanded that we do (Matthew 5:21-6:18).

But Paul, following his Lord (Matthew 22:34-40), can still sum up all the law in the one word, “love.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; indeed, seeks the neighbor’s well-being, and so fulfills the law.  Most people have heard that the Greek language has multiple words for “love,” and, yes, the Greek word here is agape (αγαπη), otherwise known as God’s love.  But do understand that love in the Bible is not a warm feeling for someone else or a sentiment.  Love is understood in the Bible as an action; it is something we do for someone else—which is why both Jesus and Paul point to the fulfilling of the law (Ten Commandments) as love’s test.  As we read the other day, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him…” (12:20-21).

Unfortunately in our day, “love” has fallen on hard times in that it is so often conflated with sex or romance.  And even worse, it is prostituted in the service of sexual immorality.  We hear, “Love not hate,” which is a slogan used by those who demand that we condone their immorality.  If doing no wrong to one’s neighbor means anything, surely it means that we do not encourage our neighbor to continue in a behavior which our Lord condemns, be it sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman, drunkenness, gluttony, swearing, a hateful attitude, and so on.  This isn’t “tough love” as some like to call it; it is “genuine love,” which we read about the other day (12:9).  Love that is genuine is not wholesale acceptance of the sinful behaviors of other people; it may overlook those sins, but never condone.  Ultimately, love is laying down our lives for God and others in hopes of their conversion.  God’s word must define love for the Christian, not the world.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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