“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…”
In my minds eye I picture a grand luncheon. Not a modest meal but one that is three courses long and definitely not fast food. The meal was impeccable, the waitress polite, my company delightful… I leave the restaurant with a spring in my step. “Thank you God for good times with great friends,” I utter. I am still paying homage in my mind to the cherry cheesecake and the french amaretto coffee as I head down the interstate to get back to my job site. And then it hits me… “Did I forget to pay?” I try to keep one hand on the wheel as I check my wallet. I groan as I look inside to see the $50 I left the house with still in my billfold.
I imagine for a moment the restaurant manager reading the glowing compliments I paid him and his establishment on the comment card I had filled out. He is probably not at all interested in my praise. I may have offered superb lip service… I just didn’t pay my bill!
I wonder how many times in life that I have left a personal encounter with someone and not paid them my debt. What debt? The debt of love I owe them through Jesus Christ Paul wrote: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…”
The context of this verse, strangely enough, is paying taxes. Paul says in the verse just before it: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7) Paul means: “If somebody is due something, pay up! But remember, that when it comes to love, we are ALL debtors.
There was a concept popular a few years ago, that you still hear now and again, called: “paying it forward.” Someone does an act of goodness to you and instead of “paying them back” you offer the same gift of love to the next person you encounter.
This is a Biblical concept. Ephesians 5:1-2 says: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We are God’s children and enjoy everyday His joy, presence and love. To go through life at break neck speed, never looking out for our neighbor… never sharing freely the love of God we freely received, is the worst kind of ingratitude. You are forever indebted to Jesus. He wants you to pay this debt forward by loving those around you. Just don’t forget to pay!
Mike Mason once wrote: “… we are pinched and stingy with our love. We treat love like money, as if there’s never enough to go around, and so we draw our heartstrings tighter than our purse strings. How can we grasp that we are dealing with an inexhaustible currency?” (Practicing the Presence of People, p.58.)
Start small. Smile at the waitress. Discretely buy a serviceman’s meal. Strike up a conversation with that frazzled mom or dad in the check out line. And know that life is more than accomplishing goals, accumulating things and enjoying ourselves. It is also about paying the debt of love we owe to our fellow human beings. Pay up! And remember God in Christ has already picked up your tab!