For the last few weeks in RML Romans we've seen just how radically different the Christian life should look compared to the world around us. Since the start of chapter 12 we've been told that our lives are all about loving and serving other people - the gospel makes us profoundly other-centred rather than self-centred.
Sounds great, but it's hard to put in to practice isn't it? It's easy for our initial enthusiasm for living out Romans 12 and 13 to fade as we realise how hard it is in the real world. That's where this week's passage comes into play, as Paul gives two massive motivations for Christians to keep loving each other.
Motivation 1: Love fulfils the law! In Romans 13:8-10 we saw that as we get on with loving our fellow Christians (as well anyone and everyone else) we are achieving what the Old Testament law required. How is this a motivation? Just think of how big a deal the law was for God's people in the Old Testament - it absolutely dominated their lives and their relationship with God - and yet they failed to fulfil it. We on the other hand, having a perfect relationship with God through Jesus are now able to love each other and so we really can live in a way that's pleasing to God!
Motivation 2: The day of salvation is near! Remember from Romans 5-8 how we no longer belong to Adam's realm, which is ruled by sin and is facing condemnation? Remember how we now belong to Jesus' realm, as we live by the Spirit, having been counted righteous in him? And yet we've been told we're in a bit of an overlap period where our physical bodies and the physical world are still in Adam's realm. In Romans 13:11-14 Paul describes the realms as night and day - with our current position being at the end of the night, with dawn about to break. The day of salvation is nearly here, the new eternal world is just about to come into existence, Jesus' rule is just about to be fully established... why would we do anything other than live of life of love that fits with the eternal day that's about to dawn?
Here are some questions to help us meditate on and pray through these truths:
- Next time I'm faced with the choice of either serving myself or serving someone else, how do these motivations make a difference to what I decide to do?
- Next time I'm tempted to "gratify the desires of the flesh", how can I persuade myself that it would be better not to?
- Next time I feel that how I live is no big deal in the grand scheme of God's plan, how do these truths correct me?