Good morning everyone. Today is the last day that I have the opportunity to orally present the devotion to my students this year. How fitting we should end on Romans 13:8-14.
The apostle Paul has begun to summarize his great letter by practically applying the structure of Christianity he has already presented:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
I have no idea what the condition of the Church was in Paul's day but it sure is in a mess now when it comes to people willfully enslaving themselves with debt. They say that personal household debt is in epidemic proportions. For a people who are not suppose to be attached to this world and who are not to invest in material treasures, we certainly have failed. As I sit here with my Blackberry Storm, my two large screen TV's and my two laptops I realize that my attitude is not much different than my unsaved neigbour.
I can excuse most of it. I am a Pastor and a principal of a school specializing in technology. My Blackberry allows me to stay in touch with people, my computers are both work related and one of the TV's was a gift. The items may be innocent but my attitude is not, especially when it comes to the debt I am carrying.
Paul is clear that the only debt we should have is our debt to love. In comparison to our attitude toward our credit cards how passionate are we about our debt to love? Do we make our daily minimum payments? Or is the cause of this debt. selfishness, interferring with teh basic tennets of the purpose of our life in Jesus?
Paul says if we can understand this debt of love others then we will fulfill the law by loving people too much to bring any harm against them. Imagine if love was such a force in us that we became incapable of causing any harm to anyone. Remember that the first five commandments are all about us and God. The remaining five are about us with others. This is the reason Jesus said that all the law hung on two things; love God with all we are and love our neighbour as ourself. Of course our love is not good enough but if we were to desire it and we loved God then his perfect love would shine through us.
Instead of looking out for ourselves, being filled with selfishness, we are suppose to be agents of God's love. We are suppose to be a force of good. This goes so much deeper than just our notion of good and evil; it has to do with attitude, words, gestures, kindnesses, time, concern, empathy. Instead of spending time on the rheteric we could change much in this world by DOING the Word of God.
The Spirit through Paul reminds us today that God's view of time is far different than our own. We need to be those servants that Jesus talked about, busily fulfilling their duties in the Master's house, expecting him to return any minute because they did not know the exact time he would return:
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
We can't live our life as if we can make up for all our carnality moments before we die. We may not get to die. The Word tells us that it is all going to change in a blink. There will not be time to change your ways and attitudes. Do it now before that moment comes. Cast off the old and put on the new; turn your back on your former way of doing things and enter into your new life:
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
How is your armour these days? Do we even know where it is? We have to do more than just talk about following Jesus. We have to do more than just sit and point fingers at the world. We have to do more than just exist. Jesus has given us life in abundance to serve him with great joy, so that those without him would desire to know him. But joy is not found in what we possess in this world but instead by who possesses us. What is our attitude about time, kindness, generosity, doing good? Is it about others or ourselves? How is that armour fitting these days?
Love must be the greatest force in our life and it must come from the only source who truly knows what love is:
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
I am convinced that we have allowed ourselves to become too busy to love. When we are not busy doing we are busying watching or listening, being entertained. We do not have those moments when we slip away from the crowd and sit quietly in the presence of the Father, to hear him remind us "Be still and know that I am God." Without that daily renewing we are going to become easily angered, easily offended, a gossiper, a putter down of others; we will become shallow with no depth to our existence. We will get to the end of our lives and realize we produced precious little and contributed practically nothing to the Kingdom. Is that really what we want for our lives?
Let's stop just consuming. Through the love of Christ let us start producing again, planting those seeds of kindness, generosity, hospitality. What does it matter if it gets rejected 99% of the time. Isn't that 1% worth all that effort?
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.