Love Fulfills God’s Requirements (Day 28)

Read Romans 13:8-14
   Why is love for others called a debt? We are permanently in debt to Christ for the lavish love He has poured out on us. The only way we can even begin to repay this debt is by loving others in turn. Because Christ’s love will always be infinitely greater than ours, we will always have the obligation to love our neighbors. 
   Some how many of us have gotten the idea that self-love is wrong. But if this were the case, it would be pointless to love our neighbors as ourselves. But Paul explains what he means by self-love. Even if you have low self-esteem, you probably don’t willingly let yourself go hungry. You take care of your body and may even exercise. You clothe yourself reasonably well. You make sure there’s a roof over your head. You try not to let yourself be cheated or injured. This is the kind of love we need to have for our neighbors. Do we see that others are fed, clothed, and housed as well as they can be? Are we concerned about issues of social injustice? Loving others as ourselves means actively working to see that their needs are met. Interestingly, people who focus on others rather than on themselves rarely suffer from low self-esteem. 
   Christians must obey the law of love, which supersedes both religious and civil laws. How easy it is to excuse our indifference to others merely because we have no legal obligation to help them and even to justify harming them if our actions are technically legal. But Jesus does not leave loopholes in the law of love. Whenever love demands it, we are to go beyond human legal requirements and imitate the God of love (James 2; 4; 1 Peter 2).
   How do we let the Lord Jesus take control of us? First, we identify with Christ by being baptized (Galatians 3). This shows our solidarity with other Christians and with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Second, we exemplify the qualities Jesus showed while He was here on earth – love, humility, truth, service. In a sense, we role-play what Jesus would do in our situation (Ephesians 4; Colossians 3). We also must avoid those situations that open the door to gratifying sinful desires. 
   The “night” or “darkness” refers to the present evil time. The “day” or “light” refers to the time of Christ’s return. Some people are surprised that Paul lists fighting and jealousy with the gross and obvious sins of drunkenness and immorality. Like Jesus in His sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Paul considers attitudes as important as actions. Just as hatred leads to murder, so jealousy leads to strife and lust to adultery. When Christ returns, He wants to find His people clean on the inside as well on the outside. 
   Christians understand this chapter in different ways. All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this: 
   1) Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military. 
   2) Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others. Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either. They should not, however, confuse the two. In this view, the church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres: the spiritual and the physical. Thus, they compliment each other but do not work together. 
   3) Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better. They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high principled leaders. They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society. In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all. 
   None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government’s laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians.