Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10

In Public

How are Christians to act in public? What happens when Christians cause scandal?

Popular Translation

8 Don’t owe anything to anyone except love for others. The person who loves others has fulfilled God’s Law. 9 Consider the commandments: “Do not be unfaithful in marriage, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not desire things that you don’t have.” These and any other commandment are summed up in one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. 10 Love of neighbor does no harm; so, love fulfills God’s Law.

Literal Translation

8 To no one owe nothing except to love one another. The (person) loving the other has fulfilled the Law. 9 For the (commandments), “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and some other commandment is summed up in this saying, [in the (command)], “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 The love of neighbor does not produce evil; then love is the fulfillment of the Law.

How are we Christians to act in public? Paul spend most of Romans 13 answering that question. In 13:1-7, Paul spoke of civic responsibilities: pay taxes and act as law-biding citizens. In that way, those in power will not have cause against the community.

But, how are Christians to act in areas not covered by civic laws? Here, Paul used the Torah (especially the Ten Commandments) as a backdrop to promote a popular rabbinic interpretation: Leviticus 19:18 fulfilled the Law. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul echoed the interpretation of Jesus on the greatest of the Commandments, the command that summed up and interpreted all others. (See Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28.) Like Jesus, Paul did not limit the command to fellow believers. In the context of Romans 13, he meant love was to be the primary motivation for all public action. In other words, Christians were to act equitably, so that no law would be violated; all people would be respected.

In today’s climate of confrontation and character assassination, let us keep the words of Paul in mind. How are Christians to act in public? With love, with love.

How have you acted in love this week? How have you violated that law of love? Present your reflections to God and ask him for the strength to love others, even when the task is difficult.