READ: Romans 13
1 – The rulers at the time Paul was writing this were most likely pagans, so Paul knew that Christians may be tempted not to obey them and claim allegiance only to Christ. Paul writes this to let Christians know that all government authorities are ordained by God and should be obeyed. When civil rulers overstep their proper function, the Christian is to obey God rather than man.
3 – Paul does not mean that this will always be true, but he is describing the ideal function of rulers.
4 – Rulers exist to benefit society by maintaining good order.
5 – Civil authorities are ordained by God and Christians should honor them to keep a good conscience.
8 – To love is the one debt that is never paid off. No matter how much one has loved, he is under obligation to keep on loving – not only fellow Christians, but all people.
9 – Jesus taught that our neighbor is anyone in need. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is not a command to love ourselves, but recognition that we naturally do love ourselves.
11-12 – The discussion of the coming of the end of the present age is used to motivate us to live godly lives. The phrases, “the hour has come”, “nearer now than when we first believed”, “night is nearly over”, do not indicate that early Christians thought Jesus would return within a few years. Rather, they regarded Jesus’ death and resurrection as crucial events of history that began the “last days.”
THINK: I’m at a stage in life in which I’m all too familiar with debt. My current debt is in the form of student loans and I’m really anxious to have them behind me. I’m incredibly grateful for a terrific education, but I’m getting awfully tired of paying for it. My husband and I are pretty serious about paying off our debt as quickly as we can and not acquiring any new debt. The word “debt” has negative connotations in my mind. It’s something I work hard to get rid of, and certainly not something I work hard to acquire.
When I read in Romans 13 that I am to have a debt that lasts forever, my first reaction is to feel burdened and frustrated (after all, that’s what the debt I’m familiar with leaves me feeling). And in complete honesty, the thought of a continuing debt of love being owed to some of the people in my life overwhelms me. There are people in my life that are hard to love. There are people that I am downright tired of loving. There are people that I feel like I have loved well, but have never shown an ounce of love or respect to me in return. There are people that I care for and show Christ’s love to who will never give me so much as a simple “thank you.” Tired of listening to me complain? Me too.
That whiny attitude consumed me over much of the past few months. In pride, I had made up my mind to give up on loving some people because of dumb decisions they had made, but God reminded me that he never gives up on loving me. While I was growing weary in loving people, the Lord graciously opened my eyes to just how huge His love for me is. I’m so thankful that God’s love for me is not conditional on my behavior. I’ve been completely humbled.
The call to have a continuing debt to love one another is a huge challenge. The word debt has serious work involved in it and we need to be busy paying it off. As verses 11-14 make clear, our time is short and there is no sense wasting it away on selfish, sinful indulgences. The greatest call on our lives is to love God and love others. Remember God’s love for you and make the most of your days by loving others.
ASK: Who do I need to love? How can I pay my continuing debt of love to others?
Written By: Cari Widdel