In chapters 1-11, we know that Apostle Paul shared concerning God’s plan of saving the whole world through sending His Only Begotten Son, Lord Jesus Christ – it was the doctrinal section.

From chapter 12 onwards, Apostle Paul shares the practical implications of surrendering one’s life to follow Christ. In chapter 12, Apostle Paul begins by sharing the first things first – when he urged the disciples of Christ in verse 1, to offer their bodies as living sacrifices in the light of God’s exceeding mercies.

Living Sacrifice

The fact that Apostle Paul urges the disciples to offer their bodies as living sacrifices means that there is a possibility of living as a disciple of Christ without offering one’s body as a living sacrifice. But if we are living like this, we will not be able to offer God the kind of worship that He desires – the spiritual worship that is offered through Christ.

And, you may ask why is it so important about worshipping God ‘spiritually’ – in a manner that He desires? The answer is because we have been created for this very purpose – to worship God in a manner that glorifies His name.

Then in verse 2, he asks us to stay focused on Christ and to remain committed to keep looking at things from God’s perspective. And if we keep doing this (and not allow the world to influence us to follow its ways), then it will cause us the renewal of our minds. And through the renewal of our minds, we will eventually be able to know God’s good & perfect will through experience.

Disciples’ Responsibility

In chapter 13, in verses 1-7, Paul talks about a disciple’s responsibility towards obeying governing authorities. He goes on to say that the disciples must obey them not just out of fear of being punished (if they do not obey them), but also because of the sake of their conscience – because now you have come to know that it is God’s will for your life to obey those in authority – since they have been placed by God for the good of all people (Rom. 13:4).

In verses 8-14, Apostle Paul is exhorting the disciples regarding the MOTIVE OR EMOTIONAL THEY NEED TO HOLD ON TO as they live their day to day lives. And according to Paul that motive is ‘love’ – God’s love!

Let us look at three main ideas from this passage: What does it look like to live in love? Why is it important to live in God’s love? How can we live in God’s love?

What it looks like to live in God’s Love?

Let no debt remain outstanding (v.8). As you get up from your bed every morning, based on the teaching of God’s Word from Rom. 13:8, may we do two things: 1. Ask a question and 2. Remind ourselves.

Ask a question – do I owe anyone anything? It is sad that sometimes we take something (money or some other item, and it happens often with books) from people but we fail to return it.

You may say that you don’t have money to return and we all may face such situations, when we may not have the needed finances to repay our debtors. But the greater question is about your heart condition. Are you desiring to give back people their money or items that you owe to them? The Bible says that the wicked borrows but does not return – Ps. 37:21

Let us always pray so that we may not come in a situation that we may owe anyone anything! I believe that as we keep praying earnestly for this situation, God will help us to be able to pay back the money or any other thing that we owe to others – SO THAT NO DEBT MAY REMAIN UNPAID!

This opens up an additional question that we must ask – are we having a habit of maintaining a lifestyle that our income cannot support? The Bible says, be content with what you have (Heb. 13:5). And it compares the habit of borrowing as ‘slavery’ (Prov. 22:7).

WARNING: I also would like to share here that let our spending not be decided by how much our neighbour (or other family members) spends. Why?

  • It is not wise to compare ourselves with others. We all are uniquely placed in our lives and it is not wise to compare ourselves with others.
  • It reflects that our fundamental identity is not derived from God, but on the people surrounding us. That is why we desire to be like others and we don’t mind if we have to live on debts in order to maintain our lives similar to the people in our surroundings.
  • Those who have the habit of buying things will never be satisfied by them in their deeper levels.
  • When we strive to acquire things and maintain a particular kind of a lifestyle (like that of their neighbors), we not only get into an unhealthy habit if living on ‘debts’ but we are also tempted to engage in jobs and professions that will pay more and as a result, it is possible that we may end up getting derailed from God’s purposes for our lives. I believe that it is a good practice to take pauses regularly and to ask ourselves this question – Whose dreams have I been pursuing?

Remind yourself – What? We are to remind ourselves each day as we get up from our beds: ONE DEBT THAT I HAVE TO REPAY EACH DAY – TO LOVE MY NEIGHBOR.

And who is my neighbour? – the story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that everyone in the world is my neighbour. Why must I repay this debt of loving people? Because by engaging in a lifestyle of constantly repaying this debt, I end up fulfilling God’s moral laws. How? Because if you love someone (from your heart), then you will not think of harming them – Rom 13:10.

Why is it important to live in God’s love? Rom. 13: 11(b)

Because the time is short and the coming of the Lord is approaching [v. 11(b)]. You may ask what connection does Lord’s coming have to do with loving others? I believe that there are two reasons:

First, if the Lord’s coming is drawing near, then what kind of life must the disciples of Christ live? Should they continue to live fulfilling their own sinful desires and personal ambition? Or should they make a total surrender of their lives before God – which will be evident by their lifestyle of living in God’s love?

In fact, that is why in old ages, people generally tend to become close to God, they go to various religious places and they become humble and loving towards others. Why? Because they know that their time to meet with their creator is coming near.

But why must we not wait until old age to get right with God and make a total surrender of their lives? Because we do not know when we will die. In Covid-19, this fact is becoming even more real even as many young and healthy people have been dying all of a sudden. Because the day of the Lord will come like a thief and therefore, we must be always ready to face our Creator and Lord.

Second, because if the Lord’s coming is drawing near, then it is high time to share about Jesus with all others so that they too might receive forgiveness of sins through trusting in His name. Let us remember that the Bible clearly says that the Lord does not desire that anyone should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).Let us remember that we all are living amid spiritual warfare. And the powers of the dark world have been destroying human lives and families.

If someone is dying and you have the medicine that could save them, then what would be the most loving response? Obviously, to run and give them that medicine. That is exactly what God the Holy Spirit is speaking through Apostle Paul – since the coming of Christ is near (and since people are dying in Sin and due to various deceptions of the Evil One), love the people by sharing the Gospel with them. Why?

Because Gospel is that medicine which can save people from Sin and Satanic deceptions, even as people come to know Christ, the Savior of the world through it. Rom. 1:17 – in it is revealed God’s power that saves everyone who believes.

How we can live in God’s love (Rom. 13:14)

Take up the weapons of Lord Jesus Christ: We know that the Holy Spirit guided Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesian believers to describe the armour of God. Though we do not have time to go into the detail but let me describe each one for you here:

Eph. 6:13-18 – v.14 (a). belt of truth, v. 14 (b). breastplate of righteousness, v. 15 shoes of readiness to share the Gospel, v. 16 the shield of faith, v. 17 (a) Helmet of salvation, v. 17(b) Sword of the Spirit. Lastly, v. 18 – called to operate in prayers – which acts like the oxygen supply that keeps us alive in this toxic, evil world.

To change our focus: To stop paying attention to our bodies and shift the focus of our lives to the Spirit. In Rom. 8:5-6, we have read how those who are focused on what the flesh desires, live according to the flesh, but those who remain focused on what the Spirit desires, live according to the Spirit.

Sadly, many of the believers have been blind to this reality (they have been spiritual sleeping) and therefore, they have not been caring and loving towards the people around them. But now Apostle Paul is exhorting the believers to wake up in the light of Christ’s appearing and fulfil their love towards their neighbours by sharing the Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.

Have we been living under a habit of borrowing debts? Have we been living in God’s love? Are we sharing the Gospel with those who need to hear it? Are we staying focused on Christ? Have we taken the whole armour of God?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Dr Vikas Ram is a Researcher based in Bangalore.