Worship with Us This Sunday - 10:15 a.m.
If you have missed the subject of debt during this summer, you likely did not turn on the television, listen to talk radio, or read a state or national newspaper. Our Federal Government nearly faced shutdown and more over the budget and debt. Unites States’ consumer debt is $2.43 trillion (as of May 2011). Even if you happen to be operating on a cash basis and have no debt, we as taxpayers bear the burden of our government’s debt. We all owe on some level.
When we read the word “owe” it is hard not to think of it in financial terms. Yet, Paul used a word that would mean we should owe no person any obligation. Paul then describes the way love transforms our relationships and our interactions in them. We should not think we may be able to escape the theme Paul introduced in Romans 12:1-2 – “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Here we face the need to talk about love in a different way.
Generally we breath in the air of our culture, we swim in its water, and follow the pattern that describes love as something we feel. There is little doubt we experience a connection between love and feeling. When we hear it we generally talk of love as derived from our feeling. Talk to someone struggling in their relationships, marriage for instance, and it is common to hear about how “I don’t feel in love any more.”
Let’s see how this works when it comes to following the Great Commandment – love God and love neighbor. Rarely will we admit that we are not “feeling” any love for God right now. But, often we hear how difficult it is to love “that” person. We don’t feel it. So we do not love. Transformation, in our cultural context, may mean we intentionally overthrow in our lives the idea that I must feel “it” in order to love. We must undercut the idea that love follows feeling.
Thinking in these new ways prods us to confront whatever fears we have had about the other person. We must face whatever internal and external conflicts we encounter. Filtering these obstacles through a mind renewed to love often creates in us a need for an example. Quickly we rush in to see who and how Jesus loved. When Jesus could see people as people – not as potential or past conflicts – compassion would move him to act in loving ways. Or, we could say it another way. Jesus’ love for people created an awareness that people were to be loved not managed. Here our example becomes the means for our own new way of thinking.
Our feelings then follow our new way of thinking about others – we owe them nothing but to love them. And, love is not simply feeling a certain way toward them. It also does not mean we love so that they owe us. Love assaults our selfishness. Paul offers a representative list of the kinds of actions that illustrate our selfishness in relationships. Rather than indulging whatever passions consume us, we order our lives around the occasion to love. This describes his plea to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and make no provision to gratify selfish passions.