6. A Summary of the Commandments Concerning Men (Romans 13:7-10)
7 Give therefore to everyone what you owe: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not give false testimony,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.
The regime and financing of the Roman state was not a matter of importance to the believers at the time of the apostle Paul, for the Christians were a minority, and had no influence on the state legislation. Therefore, the apostle commanded the Christians to pay the duties and taxes without deceiving or twisting, to obey the laws and regulations, and to respect the government departments, knowing that praying for the sinners and authorities was their duty in order that the chiefs of the state might act prudently and fairly. But matters turned away from what was normal in the Roman state. They opposed Christ, and gave orders to kill all the Christians who did not worship Caesar, and they cast them to the beasts of prey to kill them in public stadiums.
Paul himself was born a Roman citizen. He saw himself responsible towards his powerful state, and wanted to apply the words of Christ: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's”. With regards to the church, he knew that the law of Christ was over all the earthly constitutions, for Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Every Christian who loves as Jesus loved his disciples and served them has fulfilled the commandment of Jesus. This divine love is the constitution and ordinance of the church, and the Holy Spirit is the necessary power and essence for its completion. At the same time, Christ did not abolish the commandment of Moses: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
Paul explained this commandment through the second part of the Ten Commandments, saying: Do not hate, or kill anybody. Do not commit adultery. Do not live impure. Do not steal, but work hard. Do not envy anybody because of his riches, but be content with the gifts of God you have. The observance of these ordinances is the completion of the commandment of loving your neighbor.
The apostle did not speak emotionally or eloquently, but he emphasized that the abstention from adultery is the first and most important step to practice true love. He demanded that the divine love, agape, should overcome the sexual love, eros.
True love is not founded on selfishness, but on looking after the needy and serving them first. As we partake of the sorrows, troubles, and sufferings of others, we must also not cause sorrow, trouble, or suffering to anybody, but rather help him in his hardship, comfort him in his sorrows, and support him in his need.
The question, “Who is your neighbor?” was already answered by Christ. What is meant is not your blood relations, but everyone near to you whom you meet and see and expects a good word from you. This also includes the communication of the message of the gospel to others, for “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you because you gave your church a new commandment, and you gave her the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill it. Forgive us if we have behaved hastily with a hardened heart. Help us to understand our friends, for whom we pray, to bless them with a job to provide for their sustenance; and teach us to serve all wherever we may be.
- How did Paul practically explain the commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”?