SUNDAY SERMON: Owe no one anything, except…

Rev. Stephen Baldwin

OT: Exodus 12.1-14

NT: Romans 13.8-14

Sometimes if you want something done right…you’ve got to…do it yourself. We as Americans aspire to be independent and self-sufficient. 

Lost on the backroads…no need to ask for directions…I’ll figure it out myself. 

Down on your luck…no need to ask for help…I’ll find a way myself. 

We like to do things ourselves; we don’t ever want to owe anybody anything. 

The point was illustrated in one of my favorite movies, Rocky, the Italian-American boxer who goes from nobody to champ.  He’s got a brother in law named Paulie, who’s a pretty lazy guy. He got to know Rocky by making money off Rocky’s hard work. At one point, Rocky says to him, “Come on, you act like everybody owes you a livin’ … Nobody owes nobody nothin’.” 

Have you ever known someone who acts like everybody owes them a livin’? We all have. And because of our American independence and self-sufficiency, we look down upon it. In today’s scripture, Paul talks about a similar idea, but in a very different way. 

He says, “Owe no one anything…” We like that part, because we would just as soon pop as owe anyone. But then he goes on to say, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for in so doing you fulfill the law.” 

Ouch. We don’t love that love part nearly as much as the owe nobody nothin’ part. But what does he mean? Do we owe each other love? 

Paul puts it this way, “The commandments say, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” 

Paul’s notion of love is not independent or self-sufficient. You literally cannot do it outside of a community. Instead, Paul’s notion of love is that you owe love to your neighbor. He doesn’t qualify whether that’s your friendly neighbor or your mean neighbor, your Republican neighbor or your Democratic neighbor, your Baptist neighbor or your Methodist neighbor. He says we owe love to all of our neighbors, and we owe no one else anything at all. 

In America today, the opposite is the norm. We owe for everything except our love. We hold $16.9 trillion in debts collectively. $11 trillion in mortgage debts. $2 trillion in vehicle debt. $2 trillion in student loan debt. $1 trillion in credit card debt. And our love? We don’t owe anyone that. It’s got to be earned. 

Paul says: Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Because Paul isn’t talking about the kind of debts we think of–cars, houses, and credit cards. He’s talking about the debt of sin. How do we pay it? We can’t, but we can do what the one who paid for it asks us to do. 

Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Because we owe no one anything more than we owe Jesus, and what Jesus requires is our love. 

It’s a simple notion, and it should be. Because as much as we try and complicate it, love is a simple act. It’s a hug. It’s asking if you’re ok and meaning it. It’s a sincere prayer. It’s a phone call or a visit. It’s a favor you never had to ask for. It’s being there for someone when they need you. 

You don’t owe anyone anything, except your love. You owe all your love, because Jesus gave you all of his. He doesn’t want it back. He just wants you to love each other. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, nothing special. Just the kind of love Rocky and Adrian have. 

When the bell has tolled and the fight is over, Rocky is battered and bruised. He can’t see straight. The announcer starts asking him questions as he stands in the ring after the fight, and every answer is Adrian. 

How do you feel after going 15 rounds with the champ? Adrian! 

What were you thinking about when the buzzer sounded and the fight ended? Adrian!

What’s next? Adrian! 

The world can leave us all battered and bruised, especially when love goes wrong. Remember that you don’t owe anyone anything, except your love. And you owe that to everyone, because God loves everyone just like God loves you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a genuine love that is the answer to every question the world throws your way. Amen. 

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