Romans 13:7-10 (ESV)
7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 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.
Chapters 12 and 13 include a plethora of admonitions from Paul to the Romans and likewise to us. These admonitions make an attempt to show us a microcosm of what the Christ life in the believer should look like as it is lived out AMONG others.
Christianity is not lived in a bubble. It is lived among others. Others who are not just unbelievers, but also haters of God, broken and wicked. While others are pious and religious to a fault, some are believers who are weak and struggling. And WE have been planted among them. Christ has said we are to be salt in an earth that is desperately looking for flavor and preservation in all the empty things of this life. We are to be light in a world groping for stability and direction in utter darkness. We are to be among--.in community. We are to be connected in a real and intentional way to the world around us. In the world, but not OF it. That is, not above in some condescension, but rather the place and power we draw from comes from something greater than the inefficient fuel the world lives on. It comes from Christ in His finished work.
The admonition here is clear. We have a responsibility to our fellow man. While the world asks where the boundaries lie as lawyer who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus reaches out to all as His love knows no bounds.
Love is known by the action it prompts. Jesus said “Greater love has no man than that he would lay down his life for his friends.” Some might attempt once again, to differentiate between those who may be designated as friends, but we see in his practice, he loved all.
Practical instruction is applied to even the basest of knowledge of the law. The context here says if we love, we will not murder, lie to, defraud our fellow man. Love for our fellow man not only fulfills the law of God, it honors the one who initiated love for us!
Each other, one another is the common phrases uses about love in the community of believers as well as the world. Our responsibility and privilege is to love from a place knowledge that that initiation of love demonstrated on the cross is the place from which ALL LOVE FLOWS! We love BECAUSE he first loved us!
Love is difficult and downright impossible when it doesn't come from that place. We are incapable of it if we disconnect from that reality. Jesus said in Matthew 5
Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV) 38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
That is the picture of spiritual perfection because it is a picture of Jesus. We can't love that way but he can do it through us by the Spirit. Loving people with whom there is very low risk is not indicative of the depth of our love and likewise our understanding of how Christ loves us. The litmus test is then, loving the difficult, the unlovable, those with whom you are relatively certain you will get nothing from in return for your gesture, is an act that can only come from someone who knows the incredible debt Christ has paid for them and that selfless act of love is a reflection of it.
Red cheeks, extra miles and missing cloaks are the rewards of the person who has been right beside the woman caught in the act of adultery and knows that I am every bit as guilty as she, yet he, in his infinite love, says to me also, “ Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!"
That's what love looks like. A life lived in the knowledge of the love that was given to us and now flows from us to our families, neighbors, students, friends and anyone we meet and those who wrong us, those who are difficult to love.
You know, like Jesus did. Now go and do likewise; freely you have received, freely give.