14th Sunday after Pentecost (September 10, 2017)
- First reading and Psalm
- Alternate First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Romans 13:8-14 | New Living Translation (NLT)
8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Last week, I finished up a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. In many ways, this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans, echoes the words in his letter to the Galatians. Paul states in that letter, “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here again we Paul writes the same words. Don’t we often think of Paul as a “saved by grace through faith.” Paul says that by loving our neighbor, we fulfill the requirements of God’s law. Paul goes on to quote the last five of the Ten Commandments.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul tells us that three things remain…faith, hope, and love…and the greatest of these is love. In this passage in Romans, Paul tells us that love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Paul is really driving home a point about love. Love really is the greatest commandment – our love for God and our love for our neighbor – and Jesus reminds us that all people are our neighbors.
John Wesley wrote and spoke about the importance of love in a believer’s life. We talk about being set apart to God – we talk about this thing called sanctification – which is God setting us apart for His work. Several years ago, while I was taking classes toward ordination, we were asked to define holiness. One of the best definitions that came out of that time was that holiness was love perfected. I’ve often told this to congregations and I might have even wrote it here at some point – love is the greatest commandment, because if we love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves, everything else would fall into place. Paul writes, “Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another.” Wow!
In the last part of this week’s scripture, Paul talks about the things that we need to remove from our lives – the dark deeds and to put on the shining armor of right living. Paul tells us that we need to do that because we belong to the day – we do not belong to the night. In others words, clothe yourselves with God’s love – clothe yourselves with the presence of Christ. As I said during the close of my sermon Sunday…without the Holy Spirit working in our lives – the fruit of the Spirit won’t be evident in our lives. It is impossible to live for God without the Holy Spirit working in our lives – showing us how to live. The Holy Spirit should be like a cloak. It should envelope us so that we don’t want to do the “dark deeds.” That, and the fact that if our love is perfect – loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves – we will not want to do the dark deeds.
As Paul writes in chapter 6 of Romans, “Do not let sin control the way you live…instead, give yourselves completely to God…use your whole body as an instrument do do what is right for the glory of God.