What to do in Uncertainty: Romans 13:8-14

Thoughts from Passage

With the chaos resounding online and in other forums. With many trying desperately to control things that they cannot control it seemed fitting that this week’s text lends itself to answering the questions of how should the church, how should Jesus’ disciples, respond to the new legislation in the United States? The answer simply is, with love.

This is not an attempt to justify any type of sin or an attempt to define or redefine anything, but an acknowledgement that God wants us to love first. We are called to live such a radically different life that others are drawn into a relationship with Jesus by the way that Christians love. If you want a fuller comment on what I mean here you are welcome to listen to the recent sermon on the text below.

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Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.[c]

Paul begins with a rather practical line. He begins where with something that all Christians would do well to remember. Pay your debt. This can be seen as something to quickly dismiss, but that would be a mistake. Christians should pay all debts in full and if it is not possible to pay it all at one time we should pay the debt until it is erased.

Paul then uses this illustration of paying off debt as a reminder that if we have accepted that Jesus paid the debt that the sin in our life created, then we can never repay the debt to Christ to love God and others. This idea is not new to Paul, in fact this is the idea that Jesus lays out as the greatest commandment. What Paul is in essence saying is that if loving God and loving others is the primary thing in our life then: we would never commit adultery, because adultery is not love; we would never murder, because murder is not love; we would never steal, because stealing is not love; we would never covet, because covetousness does not show love. We would, however, learn to love as Christ loves and we would love our neighbor as our self. This radical love is what Paul is telling all believers needs to be the defining characteristic of their life.

With that in mind Paul wants to remind his readers that as each day passes they are closer to the end. Paul is not reminding as a way to tell them tomorrow is the day or to point out a time that it will all end, but Paul is writing them a reminder that we are to always live as a people ready to meet the end of life. It is with the idea of the debt to love and the call to always be ready to meet Jesus that he moves into another list of things that do not reflect love and the life that Christ calls us into.

Theologians from the day of Jesus on, and really before as well, have always recognized the way light and dark make great illustrations. Paul is no different. It would almost seem a good place to enter the line of most parents when they say, “Nothing good comes after midnight.” Paul gives another list that doesn’t reflect Christ. He gives this list as a way of saying that these are the things that define the darkness, but are not things that define the light.

He ends with a call to be clothed with Jesus and not to seek the desires of the flesh. The question we may walk away with is how do we clothe ourselves with Christ? The answer may be as simple as what Paul has already said and that is to seek to always be repaying our debt to love, to seek to love God and love one another. Practically, we should remember to begin our mornings with prayer. We should meditate on the teachings of Jesus. We should remember our baptism and the symbol of dying to the old life and being made new. A helpful prayer that a mentor of mine taught me was this, “Father, help me look more like Jesus today than I did yesterday.”

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