“Owe no one anything, but to love one another,” admonishes the apostle Paul, writing to the church at Rome. Some translations expand this with words like “except the continuing debt to love one another.” I’ve been thinking a bit about this debt, how we come to owe it and what the whole transaction looks like. Consider:
The source of Love is God, who is in this case, let’s say, the Creditor. He has advanced us a generous supply of love, as much as we need and plenty left over. He has even put up the collateral for his own loan, we might say, by means of his most valuable asset, the life of his Son.
Or we could observe that this Son, Jesus Christ, has co-signed for our debt, with his own blood.
As with every transaction, there are terms and conditions. Since this is a debt, it must be considered as a loan. God has given us his love, and he expects a return on his investment. He has taken a risk on us. He expects repayment, in regular installments.
And he has designated very specifically who his collecting agent is for your debt: It is your neighbor. It is the hungry person, the homeless person, the sick or imprisoned person, the one needing clothes, whom you encounter in the course of your life, who is our Co-Signer’s Agent for this debt collection. It is even your enemy: “But I tell you who hear, love your enemies, and do good, and lend, not expecting to be repaid. So shall you be sons of your Father in heaven, for he is kind to the unmerciful and the ungrateful.”
Yes, just as we are told not to expect to get back all we lend, God does not expect full repayment. We’ll never be able to love as fully or as completely as He has loved us. But he does expect a continuing good faith effort: regular payments, no matter how small the installment may be. If we keep all his bounty for ourselves, he will require it all of us as Immediately Due And Payable (see Matthew 18:21-35); but if we make regular payments in good faith, then grace will be shown on the day when all accounts are to be settled, for then our Co-Signer will mark our account “Paid In Full.”