This passage of scripture is so easy to write on but so difficult to live out. It’s very convicting for me. Let’s closely examine and take apart Romans 13:8-10 together.
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Love is a debt. (verse 8)
Love is a debt that we will never pay-off. As soon as we pay it, we still owe more. It’s tempting to think after we have done something good and loving toward someone else, that we did our “good deed” for the day or week or month. But that is not how God sees it.
How did we get into debt?
When we accepted God’s grace through faith in Christ, we freely received an outpouring of God’s love. In return, we are commanded to love others as we love ourself. This means we are to love believers and unbelievers and even our enemies.
So is this payment for our sins?
No, the love of God is infinite for us. We can never repay him nor should we try or we would be removing the grace that we received through Christ’s love. Just as God’s love is free to us – our love should be free to others. No strings attached.
It’s an interesting debt because we do not repay it to the one who gave it but rather to others who do not deserve it.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)
How does this one command fulfill the law? (verse 8 & 10)
In Matthew 22:34-40, we are told that the greatest commandment is to love God first and then to love our neighbor. So in this passage, that first commandment seems to be left out. But if we take it in the context of the entire book of Romans, we see that all of Romans is written about how much God deeply loves us. So our love for others is to spill over, from our first love – God.
Love your neighbor AS yourself (verse 9)
This is mind blowing. After studying this section of scripture, I sat back in my chair and thought – I cannot even do this. This is beyond me. I’m so selfish.
This is a supernatural love that only God can give us.
So let’s dissect this one statement.
1.) Love your neighbor as yourself -> We all love ourself.
This command to love others is based on our natural love of self.
I know that there is a lot of talk about self-esteem and teaching our kids how to love themselves, but at the end of the day – none of us have to teach our kids to be selfish. We don’t have to teach them to have cravings and desires for themselves to be loved, fed, clothed, or to seek being number one, attention or happiness. We all have a natural drive to be happy and think of ourselves first. Sadly, even in the case of suicide, the people hurting are thinking of themselves and are driven to put themselves out of pain.
2.) Love your neighbor as yourself – >This is not a command to stop loving ourselves.
God is not telling us – stop having all those natural needs and desires for love and food and happiness. Instead he is saying:
3.) Love your neighbor AS yourself ->The key word is “AS”.
In the same, unstoppable way that you seek to make yourself happy in life, seek to make others happy.
In the same, unstoppable way that you seek to feed yourself, seek to feed others.
In the same, unstoppable way that you seek to be loved, love others.
In the same, unstoppable way that you seek to find comfort from your worries, comfort others.
In the same, unstoppable way that you seek to not be lonely, be a friend.
John Piper writes:
If you are energetic in pursing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are creative in pursuing your own happiness, be creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are persevering in pursuing your own happiness, be persevering in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor.
Is there someone you need to love better? A friend, a spouse, a child, a co-worker or an enemy? Me too.
May the degree of our self-seeking be the degree of our self-giving.