Greetings: This is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Text: 8) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. 9) The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10) Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Introduction: In our sermon verses for today, Saint Paul raises a subject with which Americans are very familiar – the subject of debt. Some of us have no or rather modest personal financial debts. We are in a position where we are not paying off a loan or a credit card balance. Some of us have some substantial financial debt. We may be paying off a house, a vehicle and/or an educational loan. We may be working to pay down a credit card balance. All of us are stuck with public national debt which as of early September came to $20.2 trillion or about $61,889 per person. More and more we have become a buy-now-and-pay-later society. It’s not that we are without assets, but it’s true that we live in a climate of significant indebtedness. We understand that there are debts and those debts are to be repaid.
The inspired apostle does not talk to us about financial debts, but another kind of debt, a debt that is even more important than a monetary debt. He talks to us about the debt of love. He says: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” Do you pay your personal debts? I hope so. In His Word God instructs us to let no debt go unpaid. It is morally right to pay off our financial obligations. God also urges us to pay and to continue to pay on a debt that we can never sufficiently repay – the debt of love.
There are some things we should know about the debt of love. Our debt of love is an obligation that we primarily have toward God. It’s a moral obligation God gave us when He created us and gave us His commandments to keep. In His commandments, our loving Creator rightfully orders us to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind and to love other people as we so naturally and completely love ourselves. It is something God has every right to expect of those He has given life and its rich blessings. The problem with it all is that we have not done this. We haven’t given God what we owe Him as far as our morality is concerned. Following the inclination of our sinful natures, we have been hostile to God’s commands to love; we have loved ourselves ahead of God and others; we have been deficient in offering our fellow human beings and our divine Maker the self-giving, sacrificial love He expects. We haven’t paid what we owed. We have earned for ourselves, not the rewards of obedience, but the wages of sin, which is eternal death.
In His great mercy, God has acted to deliver us from the deadly consequence of our failures to love correctly. In love He sent His Son to be our Substitute. In love, Jesus took our duty and our curse on Himself. In love, Jesus obeyed God’s laws to love Him and all others. In love, Jesus bowed Himself on the cross to absorb the pains of hell – the punishment God prepares for those who selfishly desert and bring harm rather than reach out and do good to others. In love, God credited Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice to our account. He declares that the punishment Jesus took brings us peace. By the wounds He endured we are healed. So God shows loveless people what real love is. He sends His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.
We are glad and thankful that Jesus did this for us. We appreciate that we have a unique debt of love that we owe God. It is a debt we have as God’s special creatures under the Law. We are to follow God’s commands to love Him and others perfectly. It is also a debt we have as God’s ransomed believers in response to the Gospel. Jesus has paid our debt of sin – a debt we could not begin to pay. He has saved us from the wrath of God and the horrors of hell we so richly deserved. He has restored us to God’s loving favor and made us heirs of endless, priceless blessings. Our debt of love to God is a double debt. It is one we owe to Him as His commanded creatures. And it is one we owe to Him as His redeemed Christians.
It is a debt that God wants us to take care of in a most interesting way. He wants us to treat it as a very serious obligation, more important than another kind of debt we may incur. But He doesn’t want us to think of it so much as a repayment, but rather as a “thank you” for the love He has shown us. We could never pay enough to be even with God. So, too, we can never thank God enough for what He has done for us. But there is a difference between payments and thanksgiving. Payments can be motivated by a spirit fear and coercion. True thankfulness is motivated by a spirit of faith and willingness. Payments end eventually. Thanksgiving goes on and on. God not only wants us to pay this debt of love directly to Him. He wants a large share of the love we give to go to other people. In Romans 13, Paul emphasizes loving others. He quotes the commandments that deal with seeking what is good for others: “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10) Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Someone has said: “God has arranged it so that love is given to us so we can give it to one another.”
I’d like to share some things I can across that explain the nature of the love we are to show others:
*Love is giving someone your undivided attention.
*Love is more than a sentimental feeling. It is putting another's welfare ahead of your own.
*Love doesn’t ask: “What can I get?” Love asks: “What can I give?”
*Love is made visible by our deeds.
*God’s love is unconditional. Make sure that yours is, too.
*There is no love which does not become help. – Paul Tillich
*When you love, you allow yourself to be corrected so you can be freer to love more.
*Love me when I deserve it least. That’s when I need it most.
*The way to love anyone is to realize that he or she might be lost. – G.K. Chesterton
*It is astonishing how little one feels poverty, when one loves.
– John Bulwer
Those ten thoughts have much insight and wisdom for us to consider as we continue to pay the debt of love to others.
At times, we may think that loving others is too hard. We may be like the woman who called her credit card company. She said. “You know about that easy payment plan you have us on. We are having trouble with it. Do you have an easier one?” At times like that it is important to remember that we are deeply and richly loved by God and that in Christ, we have an ample supply of love to draw on, a supply that God can always replenish and that we can never exhaust. God loves us and keeps loving us. He loves us richly, deeply, unconditionally, forever. And in His love, we find that the yoke is easy and burden is light so that we can continue to love others, even the ones who are not so easy to love.
The love we show others is a great thanks we offer God and great testimony to the loving God we have. The Christian writer Tertullian wrote about Christian love centuries ago and said: “It is our care for the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. “Look,” they say, “How they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another!”
May the God of love help us remember our debt to Him and enable us to continue to pay that debt of love to others. Amen.