Love and Our Neighbor.

Christ is coming back, and as the Head of the Church, He will be looking to see His people bringing the Gospel to others (Romans 1:16). Jesus is building His church in Mentor as He has been since the beginning of the church. He was building His church through the local body of believers in Rome. This was a healthy church made up of all different kinds of people, which we will see in Romans 16. That diversity of people being saved and united in Christ is the result of living out the commission of love that Paul wrote about in Romans 12:17-21.

In Romans 13:8-10, Paul continues to apply love to a third level of our interaction with those who do not know Christ. Too often, these verses are extracted from their context that starts in Romans 12:9. The words "love" and "neighbor" are repeated throughout these verses along with the concept of fulfilling the law. We will find that the word "neighbor," used synonymously with "one another," does not refer to believers exclusively but includes those who don't know Christ.


We need a love that is alien to us; we cannot produce it on our own. Those who know Christ have received His perfect love (Romans 5:8). This perfect love casts out fear of judgement (1 John 4:18) and compels us to worship and serve with integrity (1 Corinthians 13). Our love is to be holy, relational, passionate, and aware. Love persuades us to live like Christ before lost people. In order to do this, we must intentionally place ourselves around those who don't know Christ.


The focus of living love before others is adherence to the moral code of God. Love obligates us to attend to each aspect of God's moral code and to live them before those who don't know Christ.

"Owe nothing... except to love."

The Greek grammar is literally translated "let no debt remain outstanding." The direct application to finances is simply to pay off any debt you incur. These finite debts are compared to the infinite debt of love we owe to Christ that we will never be able to repay. This compels us to an urgency of evangelistic love among our lost friends.

When he used the word "neighbor," Paul was very likely thinking of Jesus' parable in Luke 10:25-37. No person is exclusively an enemy. When we encounter a spiritually needy person, there should be no socioeconomic or racial barrier that keeps us from loving them.

Obedience to Commands of Character

Just a short list of God's commands lays us all bare and guilty before His perfect standard (James 2:10). Each command in Romans 13:9 prohibits a sin that is an offense against God and others.

Adultery permanently destroys one's Gospel credibility with unsaved friends. To a healthy church, this is not a command to stop, but a warning not to start down a road that leads to immorality. Living a morally pure life is increasingly counter-cultural and showcases divine power at work in you.

Murder is prohibited in the Ten Commandments, and Jesus enhanced the requirement for this command in Matthew 5:21-26. Hating someone is just as sinful as the act of murder. When not dealt with, hate will lead to murder, as lust will lead to adultery. There is not one soul we are licensed to hate (1 John 4:20). Someone who does not hate will stand out in a hateful world.

Stealing is also a problem in our culture. Anyone living the opposite pattern will stand out as light. As J.M. Boice said, "There are many ways we can steal. We steal from an employer when we do not give him the best work of which we are capable of. We steal if we over-extend our coffee breaks or leave work early. We steal if we waste products unnecessarily with which we are working to create something. We steal if as businessmen we charge too much for our products or try to make a killing in a lucrative field. We steal if we sell an inferior product pretending it is better than it really is. We steal when we mismanage another person's money or if we borrow but do not repay what we have borrowed. If we love people in a Gospel way, we will do none of these things."

Covetousness is the epitome of materialism. Though not as graphic, this sin is perhaps the most distracting of the four. When we are living for the American Dream, we cannot live for the Great Commission.


This kind of love lived before the unsaved fulfills the law of God. Galatians 6:1-2 and 2: tells us the purpose of the law. When we live morally, we fulfill the purpose of the law by showing the world in contrast that they cannot keep God's law! Jesus was the perfect lawkeeper. We need Him to live through us. The world should be watching a morally pure life because of its love, not as a cold-hearted religious spectacle.

Application Points

  • Are you intentionally around lost people? Do you have friends who don't know Christ? Do they see you living according to God's moral code?
  • "Garbage in, garbage out" – The best way to ensure purity is to guard what we hear and see and where we go.
  • A chief way to arrest the attention of your friends who don't know Jesus Christ is to live morally and purely. It will puzzle them, and when they ask about it, you can tell them about the Person who made a difference in your life.
  • Christians should not be known as haters. There is not one person we are licensed to hate! God does not use haters as evangelists. We should pity souls that are spiritually needy.
  • All four commands mentioned in this passage have a mental aspect before they become actions. Keep your guard up so we can continue to thrive in making disciples.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • John 17:11-19 – Be in the world with a sanctified influence.
  • Matthew 5:21-48 – Jesus enhances the requirements of the law.