Romans 13 talks about one of the most simple, yet profound commands in Scripture. The command is so simple, a child can understand it, and it is so profound it applies to every relationship we have. Paul sets the stage for this command by giving us this command:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other. (Romans 13:8)
“When you have paid all your other debts, taxes, and customs, and reverence, and whatever else you may owe, there will still be one debt unpaid—the universal debt of love. Love must still remain the root and spring of all your actions. No other law is needed besides.” – Ellicott
Christians should pay their debts. But we have an ongoing debt – “the universal debt of love.” This is to remain “the root and spring of all our actions.” We must love others – both Christians and non-Christians, as Jesus did, and keep paying this debt until Jesus comes back or takes us home.
When we pay this debt we fulfill God’s whole law
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 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.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (8-10)
The “law” here means God’s law in general, including the commands Paul mentions and any other commandment. All God’s laws about human relations are summed up by this one command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
How simple! How profound! It takes 3 seconds to memorize this life-changing command.
When we obey this, we fulfill all God’s laws. We don’t need a gigantic book of laws about how to relate to our neighbor. We all love ourselves, right? I don’t need a book or manual to tell me how to love myself. It comes pretty naturally. Would I hurt myself? No! I protect myself. I look out for myself. I prefer myself. I love myself. That’s how I should treat my neighbor.
If we love our neighbor, we won’t wrong them: Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (10)
If we commit adultery, we wrong our neighbor. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he sinned against her and against her husband Uriah, whom he wound up killing. If David loved Uriah, he would not have committed adultery with his wife. If David loved Bathsheba he wouldn’t have wrecked her marriage and killed her husband.
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Jesus said the same thing in the “Golden Rule” in Matthew 7:12:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
How simple! How profound!
Last winter as I was clearing the snow from my driveway with my snowblower, I saw a neighbor lady shoveling her driveway. I didn’t need to come into my house and grab a 12-inch thick reference book and look up “What you should do when you have a snowblower and you see a neighbor lady shoveling a huge driveway all by herself.” No. All I had to do was think if, I were shoveling my driveway and my neighbor had a snowblower, what would I want him to do? So I went over and cleared her driveway. There’s no Bible laws about use of snowblowers, but it says “love your neighbor as yourself.” That command covers every situation. Simple. Profound.
When you have 2 items in the grocery store, do you want someone with a full grocery basket to let you go before them at the checkout line? Then let others go first when you’ve got a basket and they have 2 items. Do you want people to be patient with you when you make a mistake? Then be patient with others when they make mistakes. Have you ever pulled out in front of someone when you really should have waited, and they have to put on their brakes and slow down for you? How do you want them to respond? To lay on the horn and give you an obscene gesture, or to smile and wave ‘no problem’? Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.
So who can you love today? Remember, it’s your ongoing debt. What would you want someone to do for you today? Would you want someone to pray for you? Would you want someone to encourage you? You’ll have opportunities all day long. Driving, in the store, with your family, at work, at school – all day long you’ll have opportunities to love others and do to them what you would want someone to do for you.
How simple. How profound.