Love your neighbor

Christian living goes against the grain of our natural human tendencies. Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies and said, “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45, NKJV). Paul expanded on this teaching by instructing Christians to “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17, NKJV). By this Paul meant that “Christian conduct should never betray the high moral standards of the gospel, or it will provoke the disdain of unbelievers and bring the gospel into disrepute” (note on Romans 12:17). Paul concluded his argument by stating, “Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:20, NKJV).

Paul made it clear that the goal of Christian living is to conquer evil by doing good to those that don’t deserve it (Romans 12:21). One of the ways that Paul suggested we can do this is by submitting to the authorities that exist because they are ordained by God (Romans 13:1). This was particularly relevant to the first century Roman Christians because they were constantly being harassed because of their faith in Christ. The Roman emperors used their power to unjustly punish Christians and are known for burning them alive and letting wild animals tear them to pieces. “Even the possibility of a persecuting state did not shake Paul’ conviction that civil government is ordained by God (note on Romans 13:1). Paul stated, For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Romans 13:3).

Paul summarized his argument in favor of submission to authority by stating that we should, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, NKJV). Paul compared the Christian’s responsibility to love others to a debt that can never be repaid. “No matter how much one has loved, he is under obligation to keep on loving” (note on Romans 13:8). Paul went on to say, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Romans 13:9, NKJV). The point Paul was trying to make was that loving our neighbor encompasses all of our Christian social responsibilities” (note on Romans 13:9) and therefore makes it impossible for Satan to condemn us.

Paul seemed to anticipate that things would get worse for Christians as the return of Christ got closer. He stated, ” The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12, NKJV). The Greek word translated armor, hoplon was used by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians where he stated, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). The weapons or armor that Paul was referring to was most likely submission to the will of God. Even though Christians may be mistreated because of their meekness and gentleness towards others, Satan cannot do any spiritual damage to our lives if we submit ourselves to the will of God (Ephesians 6:10),

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