Christianity 201

May 6, 2022

The Love Chapter in Romans

Earlier today I noticed that while we tend to think of the Apostle Paul’s treatise on love occurring in the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, he has much to say in the thirteenth chapter of Romans. And because chapter divisions are artificial, we see see the basis of his teaching starting in chapter twelve.

But just as in I Corinthians the teaching falls in the middle of a discourse on spiritual gifts, in Romans it’s the opposite. There’s a bit of a surprise teaching sandwiched between two passages on love; a teaching that’s really timely and relevant for us today.

But first let’s look at love.

The basic teaching

Love must be purely motivated

12.9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Love must be other-centered

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves

Love must incorporate hospitality

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Love is counter-intuitive

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Love is empathetic

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Love works for peace

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Love is a continuous imperative; ongoing

13.8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Love is the summation of the commandments

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

10b … love is the fulfillment of the law.

Love never causes hurt or pain

10a Love does no harm to a neighbor.

The in-between teaching

In the first part of chapter 13, we encounter a section on obedience to the ruling authorities. Paul clearly sees this as an extension of what he has said in chapter 12, and what he will offer as a conclusion.

13.1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

In the verses which follow, although he doesn’t use the phrase “the sovereignty of God,” he appears convinced that God has ordained for certain people to be in authority. This would be a difficult pill to swallow for people living in Roman-occupied Palestine, although it was the church in Rome to which he is particularly speaking here.

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

His last point on this matter is one which may have been another cause of discontent, the remission of taxes. He sees tax payment and submission as being the mark of respect for the government.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

It’s interesting that Paul goes this route. With the Corinthians, when he wants to speak about spiritual gifts, it is often the gift of speaking in tongues he uses as his example. Here in Romans, when he wants to speak about love, it is our relationship to authority that he pinpoints as his best example of whether or not we’re expressing the principles of love listed earlier in chapter 12.

If you live in a country where the democratic political system is partisan in nature, and elections are often close, it means that 50% of the people may not be satisfied with their government at any particular time. The command to honor and respect becomes difficult when emotional attachments run high.

This is certainly our challenge as well in this cultural moment.

 

 

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: