The Loving Law of the Land

Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

One morning about 18 months ago, I was driving my daughter to school the opposite direction from which I typically approached. I was day dreaming a bit as I drove and failed to notice the posted school reduced speed limit sign. As I sped by a policeman, I was snapped back to my senses and dreadfully knew a ticket was impending.

As the officer pulled me over, I knew this was an excellent real life learning opportunity for my kids who were in the car with me. I could choose to attempt to weasel my way out of the ticket. After all, I am not typically a speeder and could in good conscience tell the policeman I had made an honest mistake rather than maliciously disregarding the law. Or I could roll down my window, smile at someone expecting a frown and thank him for his sacrifice and service to my neighborhood and community.

I chose the latter. I followed that initial statement with a sincere apology for my disregard for the law and made it clear that I did not think day dreaming was a reasonable explanation for my actions. I thanked him for upholding the laws of our community and for giving me the opportunity to contribute to our local revenue stream. And I wasn't even sarcastic. I don't know what my children saw from the back seat but I know what God saw in the front seat - a heart filled with love for that officer, my family, my neighbors and my Jesus.

This morning I am reading Romans 13. The theme of this chapter is the relationship between Christians and those in a position of authority above us. Paul instructs us to submit to the governing authorities. The Greek word translated submit is a military term which literally means to order under. So God is asking us to voluntarily order ourselves physically and mentally under the authority of those he's placed in power.

Paul back this up with two reasons why we should do this:
  1. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Verse 1). So if I rebel against someone in power, I am actually rebelling against God.
  2. The person in authority is God's servant (Verse 4). By keeping order, he or she is acting as God's agent.

There is a third reason sort of snuggled into this passage and it is this reason that has my heart skipping a beat this morning. Love. It is a demonstration of love to be respectful and obedient towards someone in authority (Verse 8). "Love does no harm to its neighbor." (Verse 10)

  • When I fail to pay all the taxes I owe by taking a shady exemption or not claiming some of my cash income, it is my neighbor from whom I am stealing. This passage does not give me the freedom to judge how well or poorly the government uses the taxes I give, it simply asks me to pay my taxes.
  • When I fail to regard a posted speed limit sign, it is my neighbor's life I am risking. This passage does not give me the freedom to assess my driving skills or my time constraints for myself, it simply asks me to respect and honor those in authority.

Do you really love your neighbor, Shannon? Do you love your neighbor enough to inconvenience yourself by driving the speed limit? Do you love your neighbor enough to cheerfully give your full tax?

Jesus, help me not forget that day when I allowed Your love to give me a humble and submissive heart towards authority. Today envelope me in that love and help me always remember whom I am loving when I yield my will to that of those in authority. I am loving my neighbors and Your dear children. Help me love them enough.

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