“And who is my neighbor?” asked a certain lawyer of Jesus. The story that Jesus told in answer to that question shows that my neighbor can be anyone, anywhere, not just the person who lives next door (Lk. 10:25-37). Paul shows in Romans 13:8-14 that our basic duty to our neighbor is to love him.
“Owe no one anything except to love one another” (13:8a). Love is the debt we cannot ever pay off. It may seem like we will never get the car or the house paid off, but if time continues those debts can be met, but not love. Every individual on the face of the earth is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). We must come to respect each person and love him even as God loves him.
Paul continues, “For he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (13:8b). A man who truly loves his neighbor will not take his neighbor’s wife. A man who truly loves his neighbor will not take his neighbor’s goods. A man who truly loves his neighbor will not lie about his neighbor. A man who truly loves his neighbor will not covet anything that belongs to his neighbor. No wonder Jesus said concerning the commandments to love God and to love our neighbor that “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets” (Mt. 22:37-40).
To what degree am I to love my neighbor? Paul answers, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (13:9b). Of course, this implies that one loves and is concerned about himself to the right degree. I should do for my neighbor even as I would do for myself. The principle of the “Golden Rule” will be followed here (Mt. 7:12).
There is a negative side of love. “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (13:10). Have you ever noticed the number of “nots” in Paul’s great description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7? He says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Loving my neighbor as myself will keep me from abusing or mistreating him in any fashion.
Two reasons are given as to why we should love our neighbors. One is that it is time to awaken. The apostle writes, “And know this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (13:11-12a). Opportunities to love my neighbor and do him good are quickly flying by. Soon we will be in eternity and time will be no more. Therefore we should hasten to the duties at hand.
The second reason given is that it is time to alter (13:12b-14). We should put off the deeds of darkness, like revelry, drunkenness, licentiousness, lewdness, strife, and envy. The flesh and its lust have no part in the Christian’s life. Instead, we should put on the armor of light, a proper walk, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: Do you treat your neighbor like yourself? You should be ready, willing, and able to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”