Friday, February 4, 2011

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law

Rom. 13:1-10 NLT  
   1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. 
   6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. 
   8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

Paul was writing to new believers in Christ who lived at the heart of the World order, the capital city, Rome. Recently, while visiting Washington DC I had a sense that everything there was about ORDER. Even the demonstrations were planned and tightly controlled. Centers of social governance are all about order and have mechanisms for those who bring disorder. We may wonder that right now as we watch on our televisions about the disorder and rebellions being fomented all over the world. One news person, last night, was overheard to say "it's as if the world has gone crazy, like in one of those horror movies!" Disorder is certainly a form of horror.

Yet God's people are not to be people of disorder, but of peace and of order. Even when there are evil rulers giving the orders for the order, without that order there would be nothing but chaos. God had Paul write that we must submit to those rulers, even the evil ones-- except for when they prevent us from serving God. And then, we must not become proponents of disorder. We should not be hurling rocks and firebombs at national buildings, causing harm to people and property. We must simply, and quietly just do what God commands and accept whatever consequence that the evil state might bring our way. For all that is in God's hands. In the mean time, says Paul, "pay your taxes." 

Paul goes further, saying that we should pay off all our debts. What a powerful and challenging thing to say to us who are awash in credit-card debt and out of control spending habits. Even our national government has adopted these terrible habits and is spending our nation into disaster. Nevertheless, you and I can trust the Lord to help us and we can make sure that we "owe nothing to anyone" other than an obligation for mutual love. Paul brings the conversation back around to love. We are to love our neighbor. Not only if our neighbor is a sibling in our faith, but if they are next to us and are in need. That was the lesson Jesus taught in answer to the question of who is our neighbor. Our neighbor is the person within arms reach of wherever we are and who is in a need that we have a capacity to relieve.

We fulfil all God's famous commands when we 'love our neighbor.' We won't steal from, lie to, sexually abuse, or covet from someone we are loving as Christ loved us. Who is your neighbor just now, today? How are you loving your neighbor today?

Your servant in Christ's love

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