Maybe the title caught your eye: “The debt of love.” That sounds…different. We might expect to read about the power of love, or the blessing of love, or the gift of love, but the debt of love doesn’t have the same ring! What does debt and love have to do with each other?
The phrase is based on the words of Romans 13:8 – “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” Before I explain what this means, let me make the comment that while the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid borrowing money (see Matt. 5:42), it doesn’t encourage it either. In fact, it warns us that the borrower can all too easily become a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). So, we should not borrow more than we can reasonably repay because we are not to be greedy (Luke 12:15), and we should pay off our debts as aggressively as possible with a well-executed plan so that we can be even more generous givers (Ps.37:21). Financially, we should pay off all our debts. We should aim to not be in debt to anyone. However, there is a debt we can never pay off. It is the continuing debt to love one another.
We can never say about anyone that God has put near us, “I have loved them enough! No more!” As believers, what you and I “owe” to others is to love them. With Valentine’s Day coming up, there is often an emphasis on romantic love to/for our spouse. And this is important for any marriage. And yet, our culture has often misunderstood love to be something you feel, not something you do.
However, does not Scripture teach that love is seen more in our actions than our feelings? Notice all the ways love can be expressed, as 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says it so well: “Love is patient, love is kind, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.”
Even when someone is hard to love, we can’t give up on them. After all, isn’t this the kind of love that God has for us? He sent his Son to show us the full extent of his love, dying for us on the cross. God’s love was shown in his actions. Our love should be as well. Each day, we are to think, “How can I love the people around me today?” and “How can I show God’s love to others that I know?”
One way we can put this into practice is to fill in the blanks of the following phrase with one of the actions of 1 Corinthians 13. “TODAY, I WILL _________ TO __________.”
For example, “Today, I will be patient to my spouse.”
Or, “Today, I will not bring up past wrongs (that have been forgiven) to them.”
Or, “Today, I will be kind to my son/daughter/parents/friends/colleagues in these ways.”
The list of possibilities is endless for the debt of love.