Romans 13:8-10. 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.
We move on from Romans 12 to Romans 13, but Paul has not moved on from his discussion on love. It also appears that he has not moved on completely from his discussion on the law either. And in these three verses he brings them together – the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
This thought isn’t random. We just learned in chapter 12 how to love each other and how to love our enemies. Romans 12:21 told us to “overcome evil with good.” Then in Romans 13:1-7, Paul tells us to obey our government, support it, pay taxes, and honor officials. Why? Because God ordained government to be our partner in “overcoming evil with good” (13:4).
Next, in Romans 13:8-10 above, Paul tells us to “love each other” (again).
So Romans 12 – How do I love?
Romans 13 – Where do I love? Love where you live.
In relation to your government (13:1-7). Don’t seek isolation and don’t seek uprising. Live within your earthly citizenry, participate in it, obey your rulers (unless they ask you to directly violate God’s law – Daniel, Esther, Hebrew midwives).
And in relation to your community (13:8-10), your neighborhood, your city, town, district. Love your literal neighbor. Don’t be a life-sucking parasite in your community. Owe no one anything. Pay your taxes like everyone else. Contribute. Work hard. Give back. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love is how we “overcome evil with good.”
This is why Paul says that we will never escape the debt of love. We can never stop loving. We can never over love. You can pay all your taxes and pay off all your debts, but you will still owe the debt of love. It never gets less. It never gets paid off. It never goes away. And you can’t declare bankruptcy.
Diary of a Mad Black Woman: a story of the debt of love that overcomes evil. If you haven’t seen it, see it.
Because we will always need love. Every person will need love until the day they die. I need love every day. Don’t you? Yesterday’s love runs out quick. I need a love that is new every morning.
But also, this debt of love never ends because we never actually love perfectly all of the time. Paul says love fulfills the law. But none of us is fulfilling this law. Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. And so the love debt continues.
Have you given up on loving someone? Have you thought “Well I’ve loved them enough, I can be done loving them now?” Do you think you can stop loving them until they love you back? Do you take time off from loving for some “me time?” Do you walk past people that aren’t worthy of your love? Do you love only when it’s convenient, or when it works in your favor?
So…..the love debt continues. We haven’t fulfilled the law of love.
But there’s hope. Because LOVE fulfills the law. God’s love fulfills his own law through Christ. And Christ has fulfilled the law in us.
Romans 8:3-4. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.
So you see, Paul isn’t putting us back under law. He’s putting us under grace. Christ fulfilled the law of love. He loved perfectly. He loved God. He loved his neighbor. He even loved his enemies. Perfectly. All. The. Time.
If we are in Christ, then the law is already fulfilled in us – in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.
When we love, we are not trying to live up to the law. We are letting the law live in us each time we love.
Every time we manage to love freely and unconditionally (yes it does happen sometimes), we are fulfilling what the law sought, but could never produce.
Only Christ in us could produce it, and only by freeing us from the law.
Only those not under law can love as the law demands.
Only in Christ can the law be fulfilled when we love our neighbor as ourselves.
“To live is Christ” is ultimately not about being righteous, it’s about love. But when we love, we are righteous. Union with Christ is not ultimately about obedience, it’s about love. But when we love, we have obeyed. When we love from Christ’s indwelling life, we fulfill the law. When we love from Christ’s love, we “overcome evil with good.”