Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Most of us know what it is like to be in financial debt, to awake each morning knowing that there is someone to whom we owe money. The financial advice given here is to first pay our bills on time and second to get out of debt as quickly as possible - and that is very sound advice!
Yet there is another debt that hangs over us everyday - the debt to love one another. There are concentric rings of responsibilities we have toward others, with those closest to us, our family, being the ones whom we should love the dearest. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Love must begin in the heart, but it cannot end there, for true love calls us to action. If we love our own, we will show that love through meeting their needs, including the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
If you love your child, for example, you will provide for their physical needs of food, shelter, and clothing, and even for their future through education, advice, etc. You will also meet their emotional needs through love, affections, hugs and kisses, affirmations, encouraging them when they are down, inspiring them to courage, and helping them to become a strong, emotionally stable person. Even setting the right example in these areas is an expression of love.
And if we love our children we will also bring them to Jesus so that He can meet their spiritual needs of forgiveness and inner healing as members of Adam’s race. Do not buy into the attitude of some that say they do not want to pressure their children to become Christians. Those who say such things either lack faith in Christ or love for their children.
But this attitude is to also extend outwards to others - even to the ends of the world. The meaning of this passage of Romans, as the next few verses make clear, is to love all - and to see this command as an obligation that can never be paid off. Love starts in the family, but it can never end there. Though its expression takes different shapes, its nature should always be the same - to love others as we love ourselves.
This command is also a call for us to draw close to Christ, for we cannot love properly apart from Him recreating in our hearts His own love. Love is to be expressed by faith because it is a command of God, and not whether we feel like expressing it or not, but as all commands, our obedience is immeasurably enriched when we do it in the fullness of the Spirit.
Lord, Your command to love others as we love ourselves immediately reveals to our hearts how much we need to be re-shaped within by Your Spirit. Our own love for our self is often not love at all but misguided pride and lust. Show us Yourself and deepen our understanding of Your love for us, that out of Your love we may love others. And give us wisdom and courage in how to express this love. Amen.