A college student who was studying law said to me one time, “No matter how many laws are made, society doesn’t get any better.” To fulfill our responsibility to society and follow the religious teachings are important, but that is not everything. According to verse 10, “Love is the fulfillment of the law”. Let’s look at three aspects of love fulfilling the law.
I. Love is keeping the law. (vs. 8)
The first point is that people who love others are keeping the law perfectly. Please look at verse 8.
Paul who in verse 1 told us about the responsibilities that Christians have as a member of society is now giving his thoughts on personal debts. That is “let no debt be outstanding.” (8) From this verse some people say that Christians are never to borrow anything. Other people say that is not so, that this passage is teaching that we must pay back what we borrow on time.
The founder of Calvary Chapel in America, Chuck Smith, takes this position. He thinks that Christians should never borrow money. Many years ago I stayed in the apartment of Bob Haggen, one of the Pastors at Calvary Chapel. He took us to see the Church in Costa Mesa. He explained to us that they believed that Christians were not to borrow money so they built the church all in cash. They didn’t take any loans out. Calvary Chapel thinks that both the church and the members privately should not borrow any money. That includes when a person buys a house too. It is true that financially borrowing and loaning has the possibility of destroying personal relationships. It can control a person’s heart, take away our freedom, make our hearts mean, and hinder healthy relationships. As a result of borrowing money, sometimes our spirit which should be free is sold to other people. Our life style sometimes becomes more of consulting the feelings of other people and less of consulting the will of God. Of course it is best not to borrow unless it is absolutely necessary and then to pay it back as soon as possible. However, this passage I do not think it is teaching that we must never borrow money.
If the Bible outlawed borrowing then Jesus would not have said the things He did in these two verses. In these passages there are a borrower and loaner so it is telling us what we should do when he borrow money.
Rev. Reiji Oyama says that the word, “debt” in the Greek had the meaning that you had an obligation that should be fulfilled. It isn’t referring to just borrowing things back and forth, but is teaching about fulfilling obligations in general. In other words, here it is telling us to do away with debt and to carry out our obligations. Presently, lots of people claim they have rights, but about obligations they lightly look over them and don’t try to fulfill them. This passage is advising against this. For example verse 1 says to obey the authorities that stand above us. This is one obligation that we need to fulfill. Of course to pay back what we should pay back is an obligation that we should fulfill. To not meet that obligation will definitely not make God happy.
However, if we read a little more, we can see that the theme here is much more than “Don’t borrow” or “fulfill your obligations”. That is because right after saying, “Let no debt remain outstanding”, (8) it says “except the continuing debt to love one another.” (8) The central message here is “Love one another” (8) and this is what Paul wanted to say. In other words, He is changing the theme from the lifestyle of fulfilling your obligations in society to we must “love one another”. (8) Therefore, right after he says, “Let no debt remain outstanding”, (8) he says “except the continuing debt to love one another.” (8) The debt of love is different. This is because to love other people is to follow the law perfectly. Therefore, it is good to be in debt to love and to try to repay the debt. By that debt we love other people.
In this case the debt of love that we have is of course the love that we have received from other people. We borrow love from others, and repay that love back. That is how we live loving each other. However, the root of that love is God’s love. God loves us so we pay that debt of love by loving our neighbors. By doing this, by loving each other, we follow the law perfectly.
God by His great love gave life to us who were dead in sin and transgressions. Even though we didn’t worship God as God, lived selfishly, and deserved to be torn to shreds, God full of mercy gave life to us who were dieing. God sent his
only son, Jesus Christ to this world, and took upon himself our sin and died on the cross. He paid the complete debt of our sins on the cross. Thus we can come before God boldly. This is the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, next we pay our debt towards God by loving our neighbors. This is the debt of love. It is permissible to have such a debt. In fact to put it positive, we should live with more debts of love. By doing that we should love each other.
In John 13 is the story of Jesus washing Peter’s feet. Peter says to Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet.” (8) However, Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (8) Jesus was saying to Peter that if he didn’t accept Jesus’ love then he would have no relationship with Jesus.
Christians are those who have received God’s love. They have believed in Christ because they have received Christ’s love. Because they have received Jesus’ love they love Jesus, and they can go out into the word and share Jesus Christ’s love.
In Romans 1:14 Paul said, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” Paul recognized that he himself had to continue to pay off his debt throughout his life. This was the debt of love. It is the debt of the love of God given through Jesus Christ, the debt of grace. Paul received an enormous amount of Jesus’ love, and experienced amazing grace.
II Cor. 5:14
The reason why Paul was not defeated no matter what terrible persecution he was in for sharing the Gospel was because he was surrounded by the love of Christ. Since the love that he had received from Christ was so huge compared to the persecution he was receiving that he decided that it could not cause him to fall. What supported the apostle Paul was this debt of love.
A really humble person is someone who has received uncountable love and grace from family, and church members and especially from God, and he also has awareness that he is paying the debt of love as he lives. Such a person wants to by loving each other pay off the debt of love. That is because by loving other people, you are following the law perfectly.
II. Love summarizes the law (vs.9)
Secondly, love summarizes the law Look at verse 9. There are many commands and the Jews even made more, but they can all be summarized into one. That is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (9)
One day an expert in the law came and asked Jesus what the most important commandment is. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37) is the greatest commandment. Then “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39) is the second commandment and is just as important. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:40)
“All the Law and the Prophets” refers to the whole Bible. The most important commandments in the whole Bible are the two commandments to love God and to love your neighbor. In fact, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:40) In Romans Paul is saying that to “love your neighbor as yourself” (9) summarizes the last half of the 10 commandments which deals with human relationships and which Paul quotes in verse 9. To love God and to love your neighbor summarized all of the law, is its center. When we live in these words, we will really build beautiful human relationships.
The great theologian from the 4th century Augustine said, “Love only God. Then do what you want to do.” He had the assurance that if people only loved God, and are left to their own thinking there will be no problem. If a person loves God, then he will follow God’s word. He won’t be able to be separated from God. The key to the answer to all problems, the core of all problems is love.
After Jesus rose He confirmed Peter’s love for Him. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15, 16, 17) Because Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, Peter was hurt and he answered, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21:17) Then Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) The reason that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him was that if he had that love, then after that there would be no problem. Before that Peter had denied Christ three times. That was because Peter didn’t have that love. He loved himself. His faith was self centered. Therefore he denied Jesus three time because he wanted to protect himself. Jesus responded to that by asking Peter three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15, 16, 17) He confirmed this three times. If he had that love, that was enough.
How about you? Do you love Jesus? Or are you like Peter whose faith depends on what is good for you? If you can like Peter say, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21:17), then that is enough. The problem is whether you love Jesus or not. Everything depends on that one point. If you love Jesus, then you will love your neighbor because Jesus commanded, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:35) To love God, to love your neighbor summarizes all the law. It is the center of it. If we love our neighbor, that is following the law completely.
III. Love is the fulfillment of the law (vs. 10)
The third point is that love is the fulfillment of the law. Please look at verse 10.
Fulfillment means to be filled with. In other words, if we live in love, we fulfill the law. The one and only way that man can fulfill the demands of the law is by loving. If there is no love, then life becomes a just a life of rituals and formalities with no heart in it. However, when love is a part of our life, our hearts are overflowing.
Recently it is said that the numbers of elderly who are having lonely deaths are increasing. They have money, food, and any thing they need, but there are many cases of lonely deaths. This is because they have no love. No matter how much food you have, that you have clothes, that your life is stable, if there is no love, the person can’t live. Even if things are overflowing around someone, if someone doesn’t show interest in that person, doesn’t show any love, then he will feel empty. What fills one’s inner being; the thing that fills us is love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Let’s live with love in this society.
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan who was a person who lived in love. A man fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes and beat him. When the Samaritan saw the man lying half dead, he didn’t ignore him, but went to him and poured oil on his wounds, bandaged him, put him on his donkey and took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper and promised to pay more if that wasn’t enough. Even though the Samaritan was in danger of being robbed himself, he didn’t think about himself, but helped this wounded traveler because “he took pity on him” (Luke 11:33) His heart was filled with this wounded man. He didn’t have time to think about himself. He didn’t figure how much money it was going to take. If he did, he would have also been worried about being late to what he had planned. He was only concerned about helping the man. This is what it means to love our neighbor. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)
In our society there are many people who are wounded, struggling, and who have fallen down. The commission that we have been given to do within this society is to “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)
What can we do? The important thing is that we live by the Word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (9) Then let’s pray that the Lord will show us what we can do. “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” (10) Let’s desire that we can live together in love.