this short passage Paul prepares us for the controversy of Romans 14. He lays
out for us the law of love for all Christians.
no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for
he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do
not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal,"
"Do not covet," and
whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule:
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the
(Romans 13:8-10 NIV)
organizations in general are based on one of two principles: terror, and
debt. Terror is easily understood – but not too stable. History has shown
that stable organizations built by man work on the Godfather principle: do
someone a favor – and now you owe me one. Lyndon Johnson, as president, told
his staff that whenever he called a congressman, they’d better make sure that
congressman owed the president a favor.
in building his church, rejected that principle. It’s not to be a Mafia-like
or political organization, but rather one which gives without expecting anything
in return – just as Christ gave at the Cross.
is somewhat difficult for most Christians. When you ask them about “love thy
neighbor” they almost always think in terms of giving. In principle they are
in favor of this; but they work on the principle of “if I were a rich man.”
Small charities are easy when you are rich. Most of us aren’t rich. But do
you not see that the measure of your love for others is not what you do in your
wealth, but in your poverty? Anyone can be generous with a pot of gold.
Especially when it’s someone else’s pot. (I will be so generous once my rich
is true, though, that when we help someone else they do feel obligated to
return the favor. There is a simple way to practice true love in this. Let
them indeed feel obligated – but tell them to pass it on instead of repaying
you. That way your good deeds are multiplied more than you know, and the only
debt left is the debt of love.
up the commandments
here repeats Christ’s summation of the commandments:
replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
soul and with all your mind.'
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love
your neighbor as yourself.' All
the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
(Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
are introduced here to the principle of displacement: the idea that the
“thou shalt not” of the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments is not replaced but
displaced by the “thou shalt” of the New Testament. By substituting the
positive we fulfill the negative.
problem, of course, is in the doing. “Thou shalt not” has the advantage of
being crisp and clear; “love your neighbor” is rather vague. C. S. Lewis
gives a fine insight on this. He points out the phrase, “as yourself.” Just
how do I love myself? Quite well, thank you; I’m very forgiving, think highly
of myself and generally consider myself the life of the party. No problem says
Lewis - if you simply apply the same standard to everyone else. Fair is fair,
lifts matters to a higher plain. Instead of asking, “what can I get away with
and stay within the commandment” we simply ask ourselves what we’d like to have
done in the same situation. This simplifies matters greatly.
often seems that the Bible is very good at confronting black and white
decisions. When all the consequences of every possible action are known – even
probabilistically – making a decision can be reduced to mathematics. We’re
good at black and white.
takes a little more help. Making decisions when the consequences are uncertain
or unknown to us is more difficult. Even the process of making such decisions
is often cloudy – just how shall we decide? In those situations the human mind
reaches for guidelines – sometimes called proverbs, or rules of thumb, or “I
wonder what my dad would have done.”
is the guideline of love: First, do no harm. This is a commonplace among
doctors and medical personnel. Not sure what to do? Don’t undertake any
treatment that could harm the patient. It may appear as hesitancy, but there’s
a reason the paramedic waits for the backboard.
same is true with us. Not sure what to do in a situation? First thing: don’t
do anything that “might help” but certainly will harm. Dare we say, “wait upon
Romans 13:11-12 NIV And do
this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from
your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
(12) The night is nearly over; the day is
almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of
sometimes surprises those new to reading the Scriptures how often this subject
is connected to the Second Coming of Christ. Because of recent changes in
church thinking, we need to explain this more fully than in the past.
was rather a surprise to this teacher that our new pastor could preach a sermon
on heaven and not once mention the second coming, the resurrection of the dead
and the last judgment. Upon further inquiry, there appears to be some
rationale behind this.
this is not “seeker friendly.” It is presumed that the seeker is not at
all desirous of hearing about sin, judgment and hell. But who is? My
doctor tells me when things are bad medically; my preacher ignores these
spiritual warnings. So it is.
it is “too complicated.” Not so much sin and judgment, but the study of
Revelation can become quite complicated. This is particularly true for
those with no education in world history. My opinion? You may be right
about Revelation; but the seven last things are mandatory.
it is “religious activity” – study of the Scripture as opposed to right
living. The emergent church holds that orthodoxy is the enemy of
orthopraxis (right living.) The classic view is that orthodoxy is the
foundation of orthopraxis.
see here the perils of Christianity Lite: By ignoring this we eliminate much
of the motivation of love:
brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know
very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While
people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them
suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 NIV)
does the Bible say?
the risk of too much of a side trip, just what does the Bible say about this?
that the judgment (and return of Christ) are coming.
that people will pooh-pooh this.
that the Lord is delaying because of his patience, wanting all to be
what shall we do? Positive and negative:
aside the “deeds of darkness” – list to follow, shortly.
on the armor of light.
again is the principle of displacement. It is not sufficient to clean up your
act; you must replace the sinful life with the spiritual one.
us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in
sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather,
clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to
gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
(Romans 13:13-14 NIV)
you ever wondered why midnight sin is so prominently discussed in the Bible?
Recall that they had no electric lighting! But there are other reasons:
is that it is more tempting. It’s done in secret, and that adds a tang to
the sin. Adultery by appointment doesn’t sound nearly as attractive as a
sudden, passionate, “irresistible” affair.
reason is that we still have enough sense of shame to know it’s wrong.
That doesn’t stop us, but we don’t like the consequences if we are found
that’s better than the alternative: a hypocrisy which separates our pious
image of the day and debauched character of the night.
– or not
breaks things down for us into three categories, one of which is somewhat surprising:
there is group sin. Oh, we might feel guilty having an affair – but hey,
it’s a party, everybody’s doing it. Sex and alcohol seem to go well
together in large groups.
of us are introverts. Sex is a private affair; but note that it’s paired
with “debauchery.” The word in the Greek means “filthiness.” Let your
mind wander over that for a second or two.
the surprise: sex, drunkenness and debauchery we expect to make this
list. But dissension and jealousy? Surprise!
is an answer to this: “clothe yourself with Christ.” Since the earliest days
of the church the principle of right living (orthopraxis again) has been the
imitation of Christ (WWJD?) Displace, squeeze out the sin and debauchery and
replace them with Christ himself. How do you do this?
by prayer and meditation.
by reading and studying the Scripture. Know the mind of Christ.
by imitating the good deeds of your Lord and those who follow Him.
God, and do as you please.