Romans 13: Love Is All We Need

Love is what God is looking for most from His people?  Love is all we need?  Love is the answer?  How can that be?

What about the Law?  Love is a willy-nilly notion.  It is here today and gone tomorrow.  Love can make people do stupid things.  We need something concrete, eternal, unchanging.  We need something you can look up, something factual.  Law is what we need.  At least this is something like what the most die-hard Jews in the Roman church might have been thinking.

And I would have to agree, if what we were talking about is the purely emotional, saccharine-sweet, I-get-butterflies-when-you-are-around kind of love.  Yes, I am not sure that kind of love is sufficient for a lifetime of guidance into right living.

But Paul is talking about something else.

Don’t owe anything to anyone, except the debt of mutual love.  If you love your neighbor, you see, you have fulfilled the law.  Commandments like “don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t covet” — and any other commandment — are summed up in this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to its neighbor; so love is the fulfillment of the law. (13:8-10)

How can the principle of love be enough to guide us into right living?  Paul answers that question twice: because love fulfills the Law.  All of the Jewish Laws were just ways to show love to our neighbors.  In appealing to love as the proper ethic for life, Paul was essentially returning to the basic principle that undergirds God’s way of life.  Paul goes further: Love is the fulfillment of the law because this kind of sacrificial love of will and choice sets out to always do what is best for a person, and in so doing does no wrong to its neighbor.  If the Roman Christians would treat each other that way they would be doing the Law that matters most to God.  If we today always did what was in the best interest of the people around us, we would truly be doing what God wants.

How does this teaching on love make something make more sense?

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Categories: Romans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Romans 13: Love Is All We Need

  1. awesome..

    its time to re learn what biblical love is.

    – grace and peace
    – it’s not our love, by God’s love for us.

  2. Melanie

    The Message says to live responsibly–not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.

    That’s a way of thinking I’d like our students to embrace. The reason you don’t cheat is not that you’ll get a zero, or that Mrs. Semore will fuss at you, or that your parents will be embarrassed–although all those things will happen. The real reason not to cheat is that it’s wrong–it doesn’t honor God, it isn’t living responsibly.

    Of course, adults don’t remember about responsible living, either. I’m feeling guilty about never wearing my seat belt. Even if I never get ticketed or am injured in a wreck, it’s what I’m supposed to do, and it’s not very responsible of me to flout the law.

  3. Pat

    I find Romans 13:2 very difficult to deal with. What if the government is evil and prevents us from worshiping God–even though we are otherwise law-abiding, good, and peaceful citizens? Can we not oppose such a government? The early Christians faced this problem with Rome’s Caesars; believers in some parts of the world face the same thing today.

    I know that orderly running of society is infinitely better than chaos. But, at what point can a believer pick up arms against an evil, dictatorial government, or can he?

    It seems like verse 2 says that we cannot do this.
    “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” NIV
    “Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself.” GNB
    “So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God and God will hold you responsible.” MSG

    A very hard teaching.

    • I agree. A hard teaching. I can explain this passage sociologically. Paul was writing in the early 60s before the Caesars had begun to oppress Christians physically and politically. John was writing Revelation in the 80s (I believe) when physical and political persecution of Christians had begun. These two authors talk about dealing with Rome differently because the context was different. However, this does not deal with verse 2 as you said. Can oppressive, genocidal governments even be instituted by God? I have a hard time accepting that. On the other hand, we do know from Habakkuk that this is exactly what God did with Babylon. They were a harsh, horrible, godless people that God Himself said He was using to discipline rebellious Israel. Babylon would be punished in turn. Still, that is hard to swallow. I hear you!

  4. “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God.”

    Sleep-walking through life. So easy to do, and it describes a lot of people in life.

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