Keep out of debt altogether, except the perpetual debt of love which we owe to one another. The man who loves his neighbour has obeyed the whole Law in regard to his neighbour. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet’ and all other commandments are summed up in this one saying: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Love hurts nobody: therefore love is the answer to the Law’s commands (Romans 13:8-10)
Paul finishes up here by reminding us of our number one responsibility: love! It is interesting how J.B. Phillips renders this: “Keep out of debt altogether, except the perpetual debt of love which we owe to one another.” What he is saying is our love for each other is a debt, something we actually owe to each other.
Think about this. Have you ever struggled to obey the Ten Commandments? What about the demands that you “shall not murder,” or lie or steal or commit adultery? Well, Paul says it is really easy. All you have to do is love. Huh? It’s that simple? Yep. When we act in love toward people and you will not hurt them. You can’t. The solution to all the problems we struggle with is this one thing. Have you ever thought of what would happen in this world if people could be taught how to love—and then they did it? I add that tag to it, because all of know things we should do, but do them. You know you should not eat chocolate bars . . . but you do. You know you shouldn’t gossip, but you do. See what I mean?
Hey, think about it. If all the couples considering divorce began to act lovingly with each other, their conflicts would be happily resolved. Couples ready to split up because love has left their marriage could go back together and learn how to work it out. No, it wouldn’t happen automatically and solve all their problems, but it would make it possible to find a solution. Think what would happen if all the divorces in the “works” were suddenly resolved because of love? Wouldn’t it heal all the family problems so the children would be secure? Wouldn’t that be great?
If we could love each other, we could end of the crime! Seriously, the streets would be safe to walk and you would feel safe and secure—if people would learn to love. Of course, if we didn’t have any crime, we could close all the prisons. All the money we spend on prisons we could spend on something more useful. We wouldn’t need any courts of law, or police—except to regulate traffic a little bit now and then. We need all these things because we are so deprived in our ability to love. Think what would happen to our tax burden if we could get rid of all the wars, crimes, police, and courts! It would be reduced to practically nothing! All the wealth that is poured into taxes today could be used to spread a better way of life to everybody on earth! Our biggest problem is our lack of love, our inability to love one another. Everything we know in life revolves around that problem.
This passage is telling us that the ability to love—that and nothing less than that—is the radical force that our Lord has turned loose in this world through his resurrection. It has the power to radically change the world. However, did you notice that Paul was saying that this has to start with us—the Church—His disciple! That’s right! Christians have the power to love.
There is no doubt about that. If you know him, then you have the power to love. You don’t have to ask for it; you already have it! If you have Christ, you have the ability to act in love, even though you are tempted not to. That is the whole issue. That is why Paul says: When you come up against people, when you rub shoulders with them, remember that your first obligation is to love them.
We are to act in love. We are to show courtesy, kindness, patience, understanding, longsuffering—whatever it takes, whatever the situation demands, you can demonstrate love. It is a debt that you owe to that person. Is it your spouse? Be loving to them. Is it your child? Be loving to them. That is the first thing Paul says: “Owe no man anything but to love.” We are to consider this as our obligation to everyone.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome