I have been haggling with Medicare over a walker that they claim my mother took while in the hospital last year. The medical supply company keeps submitting a claim for it, and I keep telling them that she didn’t accept the walker but kept her old one. Sometimes I want to shout, “We don’t owe you anything!”
Have you ever said, about someone, perhaps an enemy or someone you don’t get along with, “I don’t owe him anything!”? It’s a phrase often heard by divorce lawyers in the midst of a bitter battle. We may think that, when someone does something to hurt us, that we don’t owe that person anything. But is that true?
The Bible does say, “Owe no one anything.” That sounds good; it takes the burden of guilt away, no? No! Here’s the entire verse: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, NKJV). We may be able to pay off all of our other debts to people, but there is one that lasts forever: the debt of love. And, notice that there are no exceptions for our enemies, family, strangers, losers, winners, exes, or anyone. It says one another.
What does this have to do with bankruptcy? Don’t we all have the capacity to love our fellow man? Didn’t the Beatles sing, “Love is all you need”?
Yes, we can exhibit a form of love, but only God can equip us to love the way He loves. It is easy and natural to love those who love us, but the real trick is loving those we’d rather hate. Listen to the words of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Now that’s a tall order! But God never asks us to do something that He wouldn’t enable us to do. In fact, He sets the perfect example: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God sent His Son to die for His enemies. Sacrificial love is the ultimate love, and only God can make that work. Otherwise, we are bankrupt.
This debt of love manifests itself in many ways. In fact, according to the apostle John, this type of love is evidence that one is a believer. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The book of 1 John expands on this theme, and I recommend you read the entire book prayerfully.
One way we can pay the debt of love is by sacrificing ourselves for another’s benefit. Jesus taught, by word and example, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Another manifestation of love is to preach the gospel to all men. Paul made no distinctions: “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Romans 1:14, 15, NKJV).
We owe it to God the Spirit to live after the Spirit: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12, 13, NKJV).
Believers owe a debt to those from whom they received the gospel. Paul was recommending that the Gentile churches help the Jerusalem churches, from whom came the gospel, when he said, “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings” (Romans 15:26, 27).
No matter what spiritual assets we claim, if we have not love, we are bankrupt (1 Corinthians 13). And if we are bankrupt, we cannot pay the debt we owe others. And if we cannot thereby enrich others, we ourselves are impoverished beyond measure. But not beyond hope. God is still our bankruptcy protection.
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