Because of Love

Because of Love
September 6, 2020 Outdoor Communion Service
Rev. Deborah Dail
Denbigh United Presbyterian Church

Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Communion Meditation

We have “note burnings” when the debt on a church building is paid in full. We do the “happy dance” and go out to dinner when that last student loan payment has been sent in. We delight in holding in our hands the title to the car we have paid off. I have no idea what you do when you finally pay off the loan on your house. I have not yet experienced that!

It’s a relief to finally be out from under the obligation of a debt, however large or small. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

According to Paul, we owe one another love – not just the warm feelings kind of love, but active, sacrificial love. And there is no “pay-off” date. In this life at least, we will not receive something that says that our love for others is “paid in full.” There’s not a time when we can stop loving. And, it seems to me that what we owe continues to accrue interest – there is more and more love needed. We are called to love more people and more types of people in more complex situations as we go along.

Sometimes we wonder: when did I sign on the dotted line to owe so much love? One would hope that we would recognize this as simply a part of being human – a part of the human contract. But as Christians, we certainly acknowledge that we signed on the dotted line to owe love when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, for Christ taught “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, does this mean if I default on loving that my salvation is somehow in jeopardy? No. Absolutely not. Our salvation is a gift from God – a gift, not a debt. Our salvation is never in jeopardy. The debt Paul is talking about in this passage is not one we owe to God or Jesus. Our debt is to others – to our neighbors.

Paul is speaking to people who are believers in Christ as a wake-up call. He is reminding them to live their faith. As Christians, we are those who are called and obligated to love others. It is the heart, the essence of our faith. Paul cites several of the 10 commandments – part of the law of Moses. He says the commandments can be summed up in this way: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

But how often do we hear others say or perhaps even hear ourselves say: “We don’t owe them anything.”  We don’t owe people who are unemployed anything. That’s their problem. We don’t owe people from other countries anything. They’re not “us.” We don’t owe the jerk who lives next door anything. We don’t owe the homeless guy on the corner anything. We don’t owe the people in prison anything. We don’t owe people who come to our country illegally anything. We don’t owe our parents anything. We don’t owe the person who can’t get her life together anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. Or do we?

Paul says: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” It really does make me wonder sometimes what I was thinking when I signed on the dotted line for Christianity and with it the debt of love to my neighbors. This loving thing is often more than I signed up for. It is far more costly than I realized.

I remember when Dan and I were first married we bought our first car. It was a Subaru. The interest rate was something like 14 percent. I had no comprehension of car loans or interest. Back then you got payment booklets – for each monthly payment you had a tear-out payment slip that you mailed into the bank with your check. It was overwhelming, but I could see how many payment slips we had left. There was a sense of satisfaction in seeing the payment books getting thinner and thinner. Even though it took years, there was a real sense of accomplishment and completion when the payment book was empty.

Loving others is not that simple. It is not that neat and tidy. It is not something we do and have it paid in full. There’s never a time when we can have a note-burning on the debt of love. It never stops being our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Paul goes on to say in our lesson for today that we need to wake up and live our lives in God’s ways of love and honor. “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

The high calling of the Christian life is to love, it is to put away or let go of anything that will distract us from selfless love of others. The high calling of the Christian life is to put on Christ, to put on the very attributes of Christ. It is to clothe ourselves. It is to wrap ourselves in Jesus.

When we do, loving others becomes more natural. When we truly accept the GIFT of God’s love shown to us in Jesus, we gradually move away from feeling “we don’t owe anyone anything” to living a life of generous love for all. It becomes our greatest joy to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It becomes our greatest passion to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

As we approach the Lord’s Table, we are reminded that Jesus gave his life for us. He owed us nothing. But He gave us everything . . . because of love.