“Wrestling With Romans”
Loving Your Neighbour (Chapter 13 Verses 8-14)
Stepping down from the lofty heights of secular government (vv1-7), there are other areas of secular society we have to deal with (vv8-10). What should be our attitude towards the secular community in which God has placed us – love. That sums it up in one word. We should be active in all areas of our community, participating at every level, helpful, cooperative, genuine, sincere concern for all. You say to what degree am I to love? To the limit. You can never love enough. And if you can’t understand that then you’ve never properly understood God’s love for you. You have because of what he has done for you, and given you an obligation to love. And with every new day that dawns, that obligation is renewed. A Church that is not salt and light in the community where it’s set, is not functioning as God intends. Verse eight has been taken by Christians as an edict against taking credit (v8), well, few of us would own houses, or even cars if we took that literally. Doesn’t Jesus command us to lend (Matthew 5.42), so that must mean that borrowing isn’t always necessarily wrong. Getting hopelessly in debt, living beyond our means, most certainly is. Whatever, we may manage to pay off all our debts, there is one we will never pay off, that’s our debt of love to God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, that never ends.
It is love for a fellow human being that is the sum of the second table of the law (vv9-10), that’s the whole of it. It’s not just about regulations, it’s not what you do or don’t do on Sundays, it’s about loving God and people, that’s the summary of the law according to Jesus! The person who says why shouldn’t I sleep around, everyone else is doing it (v9)? Well simply because of the harm it does to your spouse, children and others, including yourself. When you do this, plus murder, stealing, coveting and whatever else, you are harming other people, you are not loving them. The love that obeys God doesn’t harm other people (v10). Who is my neighbour? Jesus answers that question for us (Luke 10.29f). The law which is ever misconstrued and legalised by Christians in every age, is merely the container, we demonstrate, show the love that is spoken of here, not for any gain, any reward, not even to win them for Jesus, we just do it for loves sake, and it fills the container. If you don’t, all you have is an empty container. You might not sleep around, murder, covet etc., but it’s an empty container. One of my school teachers used to say, “empty containers make the most noise”, I’ve seen the truth of that demonstrated so often in the Church. Fill up the container (1Corinthians 13).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)