8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Think about the opening words of this text for a moment: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”
At first blush, this seems simple enough. Just follow Dave Ramsey’s advice for getting rid of your loans, car payments, and mortgage. Then live your life humming the Beatles, “All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, love, love. Love is all you need.”
But before images of a debt-free, hippie-eyed, easy-peasy life fill your brain, realize what this actually means in light of what the Scriptures say love is. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love bears all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. And remember, love never ends (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
So, when this text says to owe no one anything except love, it is saying that we owe one another absolutely everything because love fulfills the Law. All the Commandments, every last one of them, can be summed up with one little sentence, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When you think about what that simple phrase, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other,” really means, those few opening words of our text should accuse and terrify us. To the sinner those words could just as easily be, “Go to hell.” So, sinner, repent.
But Paul doesn’t seem to be throwing down the hammer of the Law here. And, in fact, he isn’t. Paul isn’t writing these words to sinners – at least they aren’t only sinners. Paul is writing these words to sinners who are Christians. So, these words are for you who believe and are walking in the way of righteousness.
Christian, since you are loved unconditionally by Christ, love one another. But how do you do that? How can you love others perfectly as the Law demands? Trying harder, being more resolute, and making promises to do better haven’t worked in the past. And it won’t work in the future. So how can you keep the Law which you have never kept before?
The only way for sinners to keep the Law is to have the Law kept for us. God be praised, this is what Christ has done.
Christ has fulfilled the Law for you. He loved you as Himself. Just as Jesus came riding into Jerusalem to lay down His life on the cross for you, He also came and was born in Bethlehem to lay down His life while holding nothing back from you.
So, as our text says, put on Christ. Clothe yourself in Him. Make His life, His obedience, His perfection your coat, your suit, your dress, your shirt, your shorts, your jeans, and your pajamas. How do you do that? Galatians 3:27 says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Dear Colt, today you are Baptized. Today, Christ has connected His Word and promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation to water. So, as that water poured on to you, it didn’t simply clean your head. Instead, God’s promise is that in your Baptism, He covered you with Christ.
Colt, today you are a Christian. So, today you begin the constant life of following Christ and loving your neighbor. And this command to love your neighbor as yourself is a command that you will fail to keep. But when you fail, confess that for the sin that it is, and believe. Believe in Christ’s forgiveness remembering that Scripture declares that you are loved perfectly by Christ. Rejoice in that love. And, go, love your neighbor.
Repent. Rejoice. Repeat. Again and again and again. And this is the case for all of you who have been Baptized.
But you say, “Pastor, I keep sinning. My fallen, sinful desires have gotten in the way. I keep failing to fulfill the command to love. There has to be something more.”
Well, there is something more, but it isn’t anything different. Repent again. Cast off the works of darkness again. Put on Christ again. Return to the promises God made when made you His child, when you were born again of Water and the Spirit (Jn. 3:5) in your Baptism.
Repent. Rejoice. Repeat. In other words, be a Christian. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.