Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
The Lord's Prayer speaks of forgiving "our debtors." But it is the bounden duty of every man to strive to discharge his pecuniary obligations, otherwise he is guilty of living contentedly on stolen goods. The command, "Owe no man anything," if obeyed, would hinder many a bankruptcy and prevent many a business scandal. The apostle proceeds, with one of his skilful turns of thought, to speak of that debt which never can be entirely liquidated - a debt under which we must be content to rest, paying portions of it as opportunity occurs; only to discover, and that with gladness, that the obligation magnifies with every attention to it. Could a man by love so serve his neighbour as not to owe him any more love, then might he feel free to disregard in future the interests of his neighbour, and he would thus sin against the second table of the Law. Love alone fulfils the Law, yet never exhausts the Law's requirements.
I. OFFENCES AGAINST OUR NEIGHBOURS ARE VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW OF LOVE. The ten commandments are mainly prohibitory. The Levitical statutes, however, enjoined many kindly and beneficent acts, these positive precepts filling up the outline thundered forth from the mount. The Saviour educed from the lawyer the statement that the Mosaic Law clearly enunciated the one principle underlying every regulation of social conduct, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." God has committed to each man specially the care of himself, to preserve and develop his various faculties. And just as no sane man voluntarily injures himself, so must he guard against damaging the well-being of his fellows. Cynicism, greed, tyranny, cannot survive the entrance of this humanizing agent, love, which evokes compassion, benevolence, philanthropy, as set forth so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13. Adultery, murder, coveteousness, in all degrees of desire and behaviour, imply that men are careless of another's happiness if they can secure some additional gratification for themselves.
II. CONTRAST LOVE AS A MOTIVE WITH A SENSE OF DUTY. The only answer to the question, "Why should altruism be a regulating principle in my life?" is that God has made us "members one of another;" that he has implanted in our nature, together with the instinct of self-preservation, certain affections towards others; that God's intention is thus plainly indicated in our constitution; and that experience shows that to make self the sole factor in our consideration is to rend the ties of society, and ultimately to ruin our own welfare and enjoyment. Congregation, not segregation, is the law of human life. Nevertheless, even this conviction, "I ought to pay respect to my neighbour's interests and needs," may stop far short of that proper care for others which the perfect law expects. The house of duty is a dark temple if unlit by the Shechinah of love. Obligation may lead some citizens to pay the taxes claimed; it never suggests willing offers of further help to the body politic to which they belong. Duty draws rigid lines, examines each article of a bond for fear of excess. Love delights in all extra occasions of service. Duty is cool and calculating; love rises to boiling pitch, and its energy longs for work, like the pressure of steam. Duty moves with measured tread; love runs upon its errands, takes pleasure in obedience, whereas duty is glad when the business is accomplished. The law of obligation is a huge skeleton; love clothes it with flesh and sinew, endues it with life and beauty.
III. THE STRENGTH WHICH JESUS CHRIST HAS GIVEN TO THE LAW OF LOVE. He has furnished a unique example of love in his incarnate condescension, in his words and deeds of grace, helping and healing men, and like a good Shepherd yielding up his own life to save his flock. His miracle of love sheds love abroad - love to God and man, in the hearts of his disciples. Gratitude to Christ fills the soul with generous emotion. A spark of Divine generosity is sufficient to kindle the inflammable material in the human heart, diffusing light and warmth. Christ has emphasized the worth of humanity. He came to redeem not a particular race or sect, but men. He despised none, taught the salvability of all except wilful rejectors. How can we treat contemptuously the "brother for whom Christ died"? Christ has exalted self-sacrifice into a heroism that charms the beholder, as he realizes the true glory of an intelligent will, that wins life by losing it, and imparts instead of egoistic happiness a Divine blessedness. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.