Summary: Jesus paid the debt of sin for us. Now we are obligated to pay it forward. We repay this debt by writing checks of love and forgiveness to others.
Pay it Forward
A woman and her husband came to the pastor and said, “We're going to get a divorce, but we want to come to make sure that you approve of it.” There are people who come to the pastor hoping that when they say there is no feeling left in their marriage, the pastor will say, “Well, if there's no feeling left, then, the only thing you can do is split.” Instead, the pastor says to the husband, “The Bible says you're to love your wife as Jesus Christ loved the church.” He says, “Oh, I can't do that.” The pastor says, “If you can't begin at that level, then begin on a lower level.
You're supposed to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Can you at least love her as you would love a neighbor?” The husband says, “No. That's still too high a level.” The pastor says, “The Bible says, ‘Love your enemies. Why don’t you start there.’”
A lot of people want to camp out in the very first phrase of Romans 13:8 and talk about debt. Let me tell you, that is not what this passage of Scripture is about. I believe you can make a case for not incurring debt. This church has made a commitment to not go into debt. I hope one day that I will be debt free.
But this passage is talking about another kind of debt. It’s not your public debt, paying your taxes. It’s not your private debt, paying your bills. It is your primary debt, and it is to love your neighbor. That’s what Paul says in Romans 13:8. He uses paying your debts as a platform to launch a different principle, how we are always indebted to other people.
You can come to a place where your financial debts are paid off. But when it comes to the debt of love we owe, we never completely pay it off. We’re always indebted, and we keep on paying on this.
Have you ever owed someone money? Has an individual ever loaned you money, and every time you see that individual, what do you think about? “I owe that guy money.”
That’s what you think about. This verse is saying we all ought to look at everyone else and every time we see another person, we ought to say, “You know, I owe that person something. I owe that person love. I owe that person acceptance. I owe that person compassion. I’m indebted to that person.”
Now, I want to ask and answer four questions about this “love debt” we owe.
Q: How did you incur this debt? How did you become indebted?
A: Jesus paid your sin debt when you were flat broke.
Jesus paid your sin debt and my sin debt when we were flat broke. Here’s the scenario: A holy, righteous, perfect God who demands perfection created a people who had the capacity to sin. And because every one of us at one time in our lives have committed sins, we’re sinners by nature and by choice, we cannot relate to this holy God.
Let me tell you what religion is. Religion is when people like you and others write checks to God to try to buy acceptance.