THE DEBT OF LOVE-CHRISTIAN WAY OF LIFE!
The debt of love – Christian way of life!
(A sermon on Romans 13: 8-14)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friends in Christ, our meditation for today comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians, especially, his encouragement to owe nothing to anyone except for the debt of love. This specific encouragement is an indication that shows how we are fulfilling God’s law in our life. Let us hear this encouragement again, through Contemporary English Version:
8 Let love be your only debt! If you love others, you have done all that the Law demands. 9 In the Law there are many commands, such as, “Be faithful in marriage. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not want what belongs to others.” But all of these are summed up in the command that says, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 10 No one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands.
Let us pray:
Gracious Heavenly Father, you love us, and have given everything to us in Jesus. Help us to reflect this perfect love in our dealings with one another, for we pray in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
Friends in Christ, most of you probably know what it means to owe someone or something. If we received something from someone we tend to pay it back, don’t we? Like a credit card bill, or mortgage, or hex debt or tax amount. We get the concept of debt in our daily dealings with money and we must. But, what about owing someone other things beyond money? What about owing the debt of love? Have you ever thought about that? What do we even mean by this?
In our daily interactions, we hear people say, ‘I owe you this’, or ‘this is the least I could do to pay my debt back to you.’ Phrases like that demonstrate a little bit of what we mean by debt of love.
Let me give you an example, today is father’s day, for some of us that is a cause for celebration. For those who received, father’s care, love and support, take today to appreciate their father or anyone else who might played father’s role in their life. We appreciate the blessing fathers are to us, and so we tend do things that make them feel special. We might express our sentiments by making a special meal, spending time with them, or shopping a gift for them.
Likewise, we show gratitude to mother’s on mother’s day or to all those in armed forces who sacrificed their lives for us on ANZAC day or Remembrance Day. We, tend to find ways to appreciate them, even if cannot thank them fully enough. We owe a great deal of debt of love to many people in our lives.
Maybe to show us this God placed us in the family unit as children. So that, from childhood we may come to know and appreciate everything we have received from our neighbours including our folks. Maybe fourth commandment is on to something here when it teaches us, honour your parents.
Speaking of the Ten Commandments, do you realize the dynamic between relational aspects of the Commandments? The first three commandments have to do between our relationships with God (vertical dimension). You shall have no other gods, keep the name of the Lord Holy, Honour Sabbath day.
The other seven commandments have to do with our relationship with fellow human beings, i.e., our neighbours (horizontal dimension). The neighbours could be parents in our own family or someone else outside our family circles. The horizontal dimension, reveals God’s desires and plans about how we are meant to lives in this world and conduct ourselves. This horizontal relational dimension is at the heart of the Apostle Paul’s message for us today. If you owe anything to one another, let that be love, nothing else. Simply put, let love be your only debt.
Whether we are talking about faithfulness in marriage, or honouring other people, including their life, or possession or wealth, God requires that we love our neighbour. According to God, our business of conduct must honour and uphold life, reputation, property and wealth of others. The seven commandments are summed up in the command that says, ‘”love others as much as you love yourself.” No one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands.’
Let us talk about love, shall we? Love, in my opinion, is easily misunderstood word. In English language, we use the word ‘love’ in all sorts of ways. For example, we use ‘love’ to convey affection, to define an experience, and we might even loosely use it to call others ‘hey, love.’ Sometimes, we express a wish saying, ‘I would love to be there.’ Like I said, there are many ways we use this word, ‘love’. I could say, ‘I love fishing’ and ‘I love cricket’ in the same breath, but when I say, ‘I love my wife’, the usage of the term love expresses affection at another level than fishing or cricket. By and large, when we talk about ‘love’ we tend to talk about those things that are interest to us. Love for most of us stands for those things that fulfil our desires, our preferences, and satisfies our pallets, etc.
Let me ask you a simple yet tricky question, what is the opposite of love? Before you quickly say hate, let me say, the opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness. Selfishness seeks to serve itself and that takes away need for love beyond oneself. Billy Graham once said, ‘the smallest package I ever saw was a man wrapped up holly in himself.’ That is selfishness at its best. Selfishness pushes people into bottomless pit of self-indulgence, and self-serving lifestyle.
Charles Krauthammer, an American political columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner once said:
‘The reigning cliché of the day is that in order to love others one must first learn to love oneself. This formulation – love thyself then thy neighbour – is a license for unremitting self-indulgence, because the quest for self-love is endless.’ That is the sad truth of our world, trapped in the hands of selfishness!
Selfishness stops us from seeking the well-being of our neighbour. Unfortunately, there are too many examples of this in the COVID 19 news recently. Authorities keep on urging people to do the right thing and not behave selfishly but people still break the law. While the law of the land seeks to put an end to selfish behaviour, the law of God goes beyond that. The law of God demands we look out for our neighbours at a whole new level. That ‘new’ level is defined by one special word in the bible, that word is ‘agape (love).’
This new love (agape) is a special type of ‘selfless’ love. Apostle Paul uses this selfless love (agape) in our reading. Selfless love does not look after its own needs but looks out for others. This agape love serves others even when they do not deserve it.
Instead of looking out for our own needs, such love finds ways to serve our neighbours. By this love we are drawn to serve our neighbours even when they do not deserve ‘nice’ treatment. Such commitment to love, does not hurt, steal, kill, or desire to take what does not belong to their neighbours. We treat others just as we want them to treat us. This is the unselfish love we are called to by God. Remember, no one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands.
God showed a perfect demonstration of such agape love in Jesus. Although we deserve to die and perish because of our sin and selfishness, God loved us so much so that he sent his only begotten Son. Here we are talking about Father’s Day today, but scripture talks about our Heavenly Father who selflessly gave up his only begotten son for us! That is agape love at its best!
Jesus being in the form of God, emptied himself, he took on the form of a servant and died on the cross for us. He loved us so much that, he put his needs aside and embraced the cross for us. Remember the night of Jesus betrayal? In the upper room Jesus reclined to celebrate Passover with his disciples. That night, Jesus took off his garments, put a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples’ feet (John 13: 3-5). That story gives away Jesus selfless love towards this world. Jesus knew, he will be betrayed soon, even then, he instituted the special meal of fellowship for us! Jesus gave his body with the bread, and his blood with the wine, why else would anyone do that, if it weren’t for the sake of love? Each time we partake in the Holy Supper we are reminded of Jesus selfless sacrifice towards us.
On that same night when Jesus washed disciples’ feet, he also instituted a new commandment for his disciples, do you remember it? ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13: 34-35). That love is selfless love!
Each time we fail to keep this up we fail. The law of God, testifies against our failures and shortcomings. When we fail to love, to forgive, inflict hurt on neighbours, the law charges us guilty. But when the law speaks out against us, the gospel speaks out for us. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus speaks on our behalf. The waters of baptism, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit testifies for us. This act of God, relies on God’s pure love not on our worthiness or deservedness. Our salvation, healing, comfort, and life eternal is for us hangs on Christ’s selfless love.
Just as we age each day, this working knowledge of God’s salvation in our life must inform our maturity especially in our dealings with neighbours. The debt of love for others is a result of realisation of God’s selfless love towards us. The call for us is to wake up from sleep of self-indulgence and selfishness to serve others just as Christ serves us.
Each day is a reminder that we are drawing one step closer to the edge of reality. Apostle Paul said:
11 You know what sort of times we live in, and so you should live properly. It is time to wake up… 12 Night is almost over, and day will soon appear. We must stop behaving as people do in the dark and be ready to live in the light. 13 So behave properly… Don’t go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don’t quarrel or be jealous. 14 Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won’t try to satisfy your selfish desires.
The call here, let Jesus be as near you as the clothes you wear. Always let the gospel work on your hearts, so that, you are ever ready to serve your neighbour. May your words and actions be one, so that, your Father in Heaven receive glory through you.
After all, selfless love ‘is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or 5 rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. 6 Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. 7 Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.8 Love never fails!’ (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, amen.
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740