“Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
Romans 13 is one of the most poured-over and debated chapters in modern history. Here, the Apostle Paul delineates a Christian’s role and response to governing authorities. (As a church history enthusiast, I commend to you Martin Luther’s “Secular Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed.”). However, as with many passages, we get so bogged down in these discussions and legitimate differing interpretations that we miss the overall point: love.
The greatest aspect of the law is love. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote elsewhere that the whole law is fulfilled in the one word, “love” (Gal. 5:14). Jesus affirms that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34, and Luke 10:27) as he echoes the Torah (Deut. 6 and Lev. 19). While we debate and disagree over to what extent we are to obey secular authorities, there is no debate that what we owe our greatest Authority. To be a law-abiding citizen in the Kingdom of God is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
“Father thank you for loving me, thank you for Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me. Help me to love you above all and help me to love my neighbor. I know it is impossible to love you whom I have not seen if I do not love my neighbor whom I have seen.”
John Blackmon serves as pastor of Meansville Baptist Church.