Debt is generally associated with negative things: financial bondage, forced servitude, loss of property, limited options, worry over repayment, fear of consequences due to inability to repay, guilt, shame, and so much more.
As Americans, we are familiar with debt. Nationally, our nation is consumed by it to the point where our government can’t even pay the interest on her massive debt load; and as individuals we have succumbed to the same mentality as our government which is spend now and pay later. Simply look at the mortgage crisis for proof. Many other examples could be cited, but why bother? Financial debt is factual and staggering. Enough of the gloom. Crown Ministries, Dave Ramsey and other credible financial counselors offer solutions to get out of and stay away from financial debt. I recommend you follow their sound advice.
I want to introduce you to one debt that God’s word states as good and desirable. The Apostle Paul identifies this debt in the context of discussing submission to authorities, paying taxes and the nearness of Christ’s return. It appears that the confluence of Paul’s topics is rather odd, but let’s examine further. This is what he states in Romans 13: 8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…”.
I relish this verse and the word picture Paul paints for us! Since we can identify with the concept of debt, and we grasp the word ‘continuing’ as meaning without end or indefinitely, we are urged to stay in debt. In light of counsel throughout God’s word to be financially debt-free, Paul’s statement seems oxymoronic. Is it? Not when love is the object and the very focus of our debt.
Scripture is replete with stories of love, themes about love, and words describing love. The greatest example of all is redemptive love from the Author Himself which fills our lives daily. Ironically, this wondrous gift of love fosters indebtedness to Christ- a debt which we can only attempt to repay through loving Him and others, with the understanding that this enormous debt can never be paid-in-full. Amazing, but this is how the Lender designed this IOU called Mercy. By accepting His terms I am freed from the penalty for my inability to repay this debt. And, to top it off, I am extended favorable terms, called Grace, for the rest of my life!
So, what should be my response to such magnificent generosity and unbridled love? Paul shows us “the most excellent way” to answer that question. Most are familiar with a passage of scripture which is quoted at weddings, in sermons, and in eulogies for exceptional people. I have chosen to focus on the central portion of this teaching found in I Corinthians 13: 4-8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Never!
I want to become an expert on love, but will never do so if I don’t understand it or allow it to enter into my life. I certainly can’t be considered an authority on love if I don’t let it flow through me; pouring out of me into the lives of others. I can talk about love until I have no more words, but if I fail to practice giving away love, I am only a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”.
There is one more thing that Paul tells us which is paramount – “Love must be sincere”. Without sincerity, those whom we profess to love will see right through us and dismiss our words and actions as shallow and hollow. Oh, may the opposite be true of us. May sincerity carry our love as a strong steed carries his rider over, through and beyond all manner of terrain we will traverse during the course of our lives. And, may those who cross our paths be blessed for knowing us, however briefly that may be.
P.S. Please note that I am preaching to myself more than I am exhorting you.