“Oh, to grace, how great a debtor. / Daily I’m constrained to be!” begins the third stanza of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” As recipients of God’s amazing grace, we are in His debt! What do we owe? We must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–40).
Today’s passage transitions from our obligation to pay taxes to the debt of love we owe to our neighbor. We are to love God and love our neighbor. Paul views love as the underlying motive behind the law. The commandments that forbid adultery, theft, murder, covetousness, and “whatever other command there may be” are protective. They limit our personal freedom or desires so we will do no harm either to ourselves or to others (v. 10). Obeying the law is an act of love.
Paul puts this section in context. He has not drifted into a random tangent about morality in this passage but is still addressing those who were troubled by his message about a righteousness from God that is “apart from the law” (Rom. 3:21). The righteousness of the gospel does not come through obeying the law, but it agrees with it. Those who, through the Spirit, fulfill their “continuing debt to love one another” are fulfilling the righteousness of the law.
Paul mentions an additional motive in verse 12, where he notes that the night is almost over and “the day is almost here.” This acknowledges the darkness of the present age and is a veiled reference to the return of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is called a “kingdom of light” (Col. 1:12). Its citizens are called “children of light” (Eph. 5:8).
>> Are you longing for the light? By treating others with love, you are resisting the darkness of the present age and bearing witness to the coming of Christ’s kingdom. This love is shown both by what you do and what you do not do. How will you show God’s love today?