“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
In other words, if anyone has a proper expectation of us, like our monthly bills, house payment, car payment, etc; then we should pay them, but we will always owe love for one another. I don’t think that this was a platitude or a cliché that Paul was making. Paul was encouraging the Romans and us to live within our means,. pay our bills and let no debt stay outstanding except that we will always have a continuing debt of love that we owe our neighbors. We are to continue to give that love because it will always be outstanding. Just as God continues to love us, we are to love others, regardless of their attitude, their habits, or how they may mistreat us.
We have an obligation to love others that goes on and on. Our obligation to love is actually viewed by God as a debt that we owe. That’s an interesting concept: Don’t let your debts to anyone be outstanding except to love one another. Just as we receive ongoing love from God, as God’s agents we are to give ongoing love to “one another.” And, we are not to limit “one another” just to other Christians, but rather we are to extend God’s love to all with whom we come in contact—our neighbors in the broadest sense. The idea that “one another” extends beyond the Christian community is certainly in keeping with what Paul said in chapter 12, verses 12-14, “Extend hospitality to strangers. ”Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse. Repay no one evil for evil.”
When my husband and I started to really get our marriage smoothed out, we each began to think about the other person instead of ourselves. We still didn’t do it perfectly, but it was the beginning of a beautiful marriage. We had to grow into thinking of each other before we thought of ourselves, and it made all the difference in the world in our marriage. Sometimes when I was feeling sorry for myself because he had jumped all over me for something trivial—or what I thought was trivial, I would carefully evaluate what I would say to him to make him see how wrong he was so he would see his fault. I wanted to make him say he was sorry. And sometimes while I was doing this, I would hear the question in my head, “Who are you thinking about now?” And the obvious answer was: I was thinking about myself, not him. I was thinking about how he needed to make it right. Finally, I heard that question so many times that I relented to loving as I needed to love, as God had called me to love. Our arguing about who was right and who was wrong was only destroying the love that God had put in our hearts for each other, and it had to give way to loving beyond who was right and who was wrong.
- When a conflict comes up in a relationship do you ever ask yourself: “Who are you think about now?”
- Can you think of a time when loving another seemed like something you owed but you were not ready to pay?
- Can we love others who are different from us like God loves us?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.