Love Your Neighbors (Romans 13:8-14)
There isn’t a great deal of snow in northwest Alabama, where I went to college. Every year you might get a dusting or two of snow, and every few years, you would get a few inches of snow. But ice is a different story. Ice storms were rather common, and when I was a junior in college, we got a whopper of an ice storm.
As the sleet and freezing rain were falling, a friend and I were outside talking; Dennis and I could hear limb after limb falling out of trees. Not long after Dennis and I walked back inside, we lost power. We roommates had a little problem—the furnaces, stoves, and ovens in our apartment were all electric. We had no way to cook or keep warm.
I hatched a plan; I called the wife of one of the elders where a roommate worshiped and asked if we could come over until the power came back. The Lumpkins told us they didn’t have power, either, but they had a fireplace, so we could keep warm and heat food. For the next several days, a few guys barged in on an elder, his wife, and teenage daughter so that we could be warm and fed. The Lumpkins never complained, never griped, but served us guys.
Has anyone ever shown you deep love? Maybe someone brought you food after a hospital stay. Maybe someone mowed your lawn when you couldn’t mow it. Maybe someone watered your plants or kept your pets while you were on vacation. Maybe someone helped you find a job or took you to the doctor or spoke an encouraging word when you so desperately needed one.
The Old Testament, as you know, had a plethora of commands about how to treat others, and trying to remember them all could be burdensome. But this morning’s text said all those commands boiled down to one: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This morning’s text teaches: “Love fulfills the law.”
Scripture (Romans 13:8-10)
Moral teachers of Paul’s day often spoke about the dangers of debt. Paul’s point, however, isn’t that it’s wrong to borrow money but that it’s wrong to borrow money and not repay it.
What one does owe another is love, for “Love fulfills the law.” Throughout Scripture, God called on his people to love one another.
- “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
- “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
- “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Pet 1:22).
The commandments are summed up in: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Think about the commands Paul listed.
- The one who does not commit adultery loves his neighbor as himself; he neither mistreats his wife nor does he wrong his neighbor by sleeping with his wife.
- The one who does not murder loves his neighbor as himself; he honors his neighbor’s life.
- The one who does not steal loves his neighbor as himself; he honors his neighbor by not taking his neighbor’s possessions.
- The one who does not covet loves his neighbor as himself; he honors his neighbor by not lusting over his neighbor’s possessions.
Love doesn’t wrong a neighbor, for “Love fulfills the law.” God gave the law because of evildoers: “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane” (1 Tim 1:9). When one acts in love, he acts in union with the law; when one does not act in love, he acts contrary to the law.
“Love fulfills the law.” Since you fulfill the law through your love, you need to love. How can you fulfill the law through loving your neighbors?
You must first Accept the truth that love is action. People today often equate love with feelings, specifically how someone else makes them feel. You might hear people say things like, “I just don’t love her anymore” or “I fell out of love with him.” People also confuse love with a strong liking; someone might say, “I love football” or “I love tacos.”
But true, biblical love is always action. God demonstrated this truth: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Jesus the Son likewise demonstrated this truth: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). At that point, Jesus got up from table, wrapped a towel around himself, and washed the disciples’ feet.
Jesus’s apostles likewise taught us that love is action. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. 1 John 3:16-18. Thus, as you think about how to fulfill the law through love, you must Accept that love is action.
You know that it does no good to accept a truth unless you Act on it: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (Js 4:17).
Because it does no good to accept and then not act, you must love. Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate how one must love his neighbor: Luke 10:25-37. The Good Samaritan cared for that poor soul: He doctored the man’s wounds; he took him to an inn and nursed him; and when he left the inn, he gave the innkeeper money to provide for the man’s needs. The Good Samaritan loved by seeing a need and filling a need.
What needs could you fill in this congregation?
- What brother or sister needs a card or a phone call or a visit?
- What brother or sister could use a listening ear?
- What brother or sister needs encouragement?
- What brother or sister could use your prayers?
What needs do you see in your neighborhood?
- Who needs a ride to the doctor?
- Who needs help paying for groceries?
- Who needs a shoulder to cry on?
- Who needs work done around the house?
- Who needs help with the children?
The Good Samaritan saw a need; instead of turning away from the need, he acted; he loved. Will you act? Will you love?
Do you love the Lord? Loving the Lord is action: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). Are you keeping the Lord’s commandments? Do you love the Lord?