Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
“Owe no one anything”. Don’t be in debt to anyone. In other words, always pay what you owe.
The law tells us “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.” (Leviticus 19:13) – pay your laborers their wages at the end of each day. Jesus tells us, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) – pay to the government what you owe it, and to God what you owe Him.
Paul says, “Owe no one anything except” – pay everything you owe, except…. Except what? “except to love one another”. Really, Paul? Pay all our debts, everything we owe, except to love one another? Shall we overlook that one? Does he really mean we don’t need to pay the debt we owe of loving one another?
It might appear so at first glance, but he is actually saying, “let no debt that you owe continue unpaid, except for the debt of loving one another.” The key word is “continue”.
Jesus tells us, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). We do not owe this debt of love to any other person; we do not owe love to people because of what they have done for us. The debt of loving one another we owe to God, for He has first loved us. The only cost with which we are charged for the salvation that has been given to us is the debt to love – first the Lord our God, then our neighbor.
“God is love.” (1 John 4:16). “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8). We are called to love, then to love more, then to continue to love without stopping just the way Jesus did. No matter how much we love, nor how long we love, we will always owe more love. Our debt of love will never be paid in this life.
Paul is not saying, “Give up and stop paying your debt”. He is saying, “Love. Keep loving. Never stop loving. The debt will always be there, but don’t let that discourage you from continuing to love more.”
Love with the love of Jesus … because the love of Jesus can change hearts, minds, and lives. It can change the world: it has before, and it can do so again.
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson