It is such a joy as a parent to watch our children on Christmas morning opening their gifts with great excitement. They squeal with delight and shout, “It’s just what I wanted!” When we see their happiness, we decide it was worth whatever it took to get them these special gifts. Until January, when the credit card bill comes in, then our joy is replaced with groans of “Why did I spend so much money?” Financial experts estimate Americans will spend on average $600 to $900 this Christmas season, and the majority of shoppers will use credit for their purchases and “pay the piper” for months afterward.
The apostle Paul says that we should only have one debt on our balance sheet: “the continuing debt to love one another.” Financial planners can help you devise a plan to pay off your credit debt, but Paul says that love for one another is a “continuing debt,” that can never be finished. It is a life-long obligation. Yes, you read that right—love, as Paul sees it in the context—is an obligation. How is that so? Look at verse 12 – “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” He is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22:37-40 where the Lord says that “All the law and the prophets hang on [the command to love]. Loving God and loving others encompasses every law and commandment in the Old and New Testaments.
Love is more than a “warm fuzzy feeling,” love is a choice we make every day. 1 Corinthians 13 offers us a practical example of choosing to love. You may be very familiar with it, but I want to challenge you to read this passage a little differently. Instead of the word “love,” put your own name in the verse and read it aloud:
_______________ is patient, _____________ is kind. ____________ does not envy, ______________does not boast, _______________ is not proud. ______________ is not rude, ______________ is not self-seeking, _______________ is not easily angered. ______________ keeps no record of wrongs. ______________ does not delight in evil, but ______________ rejoices with the truth. _____________ always protects, _______________ always trusts, _____________ always hopes, _______________ always perseveres (v. 4-7).
So how did you do? I don’t know about you but I started to squirm at “does not envy.”
Love doesn’t require any money, but it is costly. It will cost you time and attention and patience and ego, but it brings amazing dividends! Every day you and I have the opportunity to share the love of God in this world. When we are patient, kind, humble, considerate, forgiving, honest and compassionate we are making installments on our never-ending obligation to love. What would your home, your workplace, your church and community look like if you followed Paul’s payment plan?