Christians live and love with eternity in mind. #love
Romans 13:11 “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”
Have you ever found it difficult to love someone, even though you know that as a Christian it is what you are called to do? It could be betrayal or anger or ambivalence on one side of the relationship or the other, but either way love seems almost impossible to give to that person. Paul gives us incentives to put away whatever hindrances block that love and think eschatologically as Christians. In other words, we live today knowing both that there is a glorious end and that it is nearer today than it was yesterday. Christians are called to live with Jesus in mind, to live in light of the fact that when He returns for His children, it will be as if we awaken from a lifetime of slumber to the marvelous reality of eternity with Him. That moment will be the final culmination of our salvation, and our eyes must be set on that prize, not on whatever trivial and temporal situations plague us now on this earth. What Paul is actually calling us to is to live in light of where we will be, not where we are, and to live knowing that the day is drawing near when we will truly go home. Let us live by the words of this great hymn by Helen Lemmel: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Helen Lemmel, 1922)
Study/Meditation: Read Luke 12:13-21. How does this parable relate to Paul’s reminder in Romans 13:11?
*Father, give me a heart to love even those I find unlovable. Forgive me when I fail at this and remind me that my eyes are to always be set on You and eternity in heaven. Amen.
How does loving your neighbor fulfill God’s law? #loveyourneighbor
Romans 13:9-10 “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.”
Probably one of the most widely familiar commands within the Bible is the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Believers and unbelievers alike refer to this creed as one of acceptable, moral behavior. However, what were Moses and Jesus and Paul actually saying? First, the commandment is not a call to love yourself first so that you can love others. There is nothing in the gospel or the Old Testament that commands us to self-love. As a matter of fact, the Bible clearly states that the prerequisite to loving others is to first know the saving love of God. When you have experienced His providential saving grace, then you are filled up to the point of being able to love another. We are called to be completely “other-centered” in our love and never “self-centered.” Secondly, when Paul recites the second table commandments, commandments 5-10, he is reciting those that specifically have to do with how we treat others. He is reminding us that love is embodied not only in and just because of emotion, but more importantly it is encompassed in our actions. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Love is demonstrated in action, and therefore it is a fulfilling of the law which requires correct action.
Study/Meditation: How does loving others fulfill God’s law?
*Father, thank You for loving me so that I might be saved. Thank You that in doing so You gave me the ability to love others. Help me see how I should fulfill Your law by correctly loving my fellow man. Amen.
Pay your debts and be done, but never be done with love. #love
Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Keeping civil law and subjecting ourselves to civil authorities is really about how we project the nature of Christ to the world. Paul is continuing in this avenue now by moving on to how we must also treat those in the world. When he writes, “Owe no one anything,” he isn’t saying that Christians aren’t to borrow money. The phrase is more accurately translated as, “Do not continue owing; pay your debts.” In other words, our witness is damaged if we leave debts unpaid; we must continue to pay them until they are met. When he follows that with “except to love each other,” he is saying that there is one debt that is never discharged—loving others. We can pay off all of our loans and credit cards, but we must never believe that we have loved enough to be finished with it. Paul is speaking directly to the love we show to our neighbors here, not just to our fellow brethren. To “fulfill the law” means that we have given to the law the full measure of what is required. We are called upon to apply our Christian neighbor love to all of our societal relationships, thus meeting the fullest requirements of Mosaic Law. In this way, as with our responses to civil government, we are projecting the nature of Christ in all aspects of our lives.
Study/Meditation: In what ways do you fulfill the law by showing love in a continuing manner to the world? Why do you think this is so important for the Christian?
*Father, help me reflect You to the world in the way that I treat them. Let Your love be the thing that they see, even if they do not return it. Amen.
Should Christians pay taxes? #citizenship
Romans 13:6-7 “For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
It is an historical precedent among mankind to dislike paying taxes. It’s not new today, and it wasn’t new in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. The objections were also quite similar, especially among Christians. Often Christians object to paying their taxes, sometimes refusing to do so, because they disagree with how the government is run or spends their tax dollars. It was no different in Rome thirty years after the death of Jesus, and in some ways it was even worse. People were required to pay a tax that was used as a form of worship of Caesar who was instituted as a god. While Jesus lived on this earth, taxes were collected by an extortioner hired by the Roman government to line his own pockets. Christians, including Jesus’ own disciples, questioned whether or not they should pay these taxes that went to support a government that was corrupt and often immoral. The same questions arise today, so what answer does the Bible give us? Paul points out, “You also pay taxes.” Jesus explained to Peter in Matthew 17 that although our citizenship is in heaven, in order “not to give offense to them,” we pay taxes. (Matthew 17:24-27) In other words, we know we have a higher calling and an eternal citizenship on which our focus must lie. We submit to the laws of this land out of submission to our King, and we obey those same laws so that we might bring focus onto that very same King and not on our own disobedience.
Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 22:15-22. How does what Jesus said to the Pharisees in this passage support what Paul instructs in Romans 13:6-7?
*Father, I submit to You and subject myself to You. Help me to make all of my actions and my life reflect that I am a citizen of Your eternal Kingdom. Amen.
What is a Christian’s response to a corrupt government? #government
Romans 13:5 “Therefore one must be in subjection (to civil government), not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”
God has instituted a principle for ruling among men, and this principle is for our good. This certainly does not mean that those men or women who are ruling at any given time are doing so above reproach. After all, fallen mankind is fully incapable of carrying out God’s perfect plan without also interjecting bits and pieces of their “fallenness.” We must remember that as Paul was writing this about being in subjection to governing authorities, he had experienced unfair imprisonment, beatings, and torture at the hands of civil authorities. But what was his response in those instances? In Philippi, he and his companions sang praises to God while in prison. Paul knew that his subjection was to the institution put in place by God for maintaining order among mankind; his subjection was to the principle of this order, not necessarily to the practice of this order. We subject to God’s ordered plan for governance because of our conscience, which is that inner voice speaking of what is right and wrong, and not simply because we fear punishment. Our Christian responses to civil authorities are based on our God-given knowledge of what is right and wrong. What God puts in place is right and for our good. Our subjection is based on that principle and not on human behavior.
Study/Meditation: How is unfair or corrupt government another example of fallen man’s attempts at carrying out God’s perfect plan? What other examples can you think of?
*Father, You are perfect and holy, and I worship You. I delight in the things You have set in place and I submit to Your plan and purpose. Amen.
The might of civil government must not make right. It must enforce right. #obedience
Romans 13:3-4 “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
Paul gives a clear picture in verses 3 and 4 about the role of civil government (which includes church leadership and leadership in the home), and that role has everything to do with God’s moral law first and foremost. Notice that Paul uses the words “right” and “wrong” and “good” and “bad.” God has established a system of order and authority among His creation for its good. In all things within the realm of man, order of roles and function, when followed and administered correctly, works to the betterment of that system. Even more important than that, however, is that this order is designed to reflect God’s moral law of right and wrong. Paul is saying something deeper and higher than mere obedience to authority. Authority itself should be in the service of the moral law expressed in the words “good” and “bad.” Might does not make right in this text. Might enforces right. Our submission to this kind of civil governance is not a submission to the institution; it is a submission to what God has established to govern His moral standards of right and wrong. When the authority and those under it operate within God’s standard of morality, it is designed to be good.
Study/Meditation: Read 1 Peter 2:13-17. How did Peter echo Paul’s words from Romans 13:1-7? Why do you think both men saw this topic as so very important for Christians?
*Father, help me to always look to You for the moral standards by which I should live. I pray for those in authority over me and my family that they, too, will be led by Your laws. Amen.