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Lesson 5: Sacrificial Love

Jesus’ own witness of sacrificial love and forgiveness, and his work to heal the sick and care for those in need, represent God’s ways and vision for us.

– Adam Hamilton

Devotion: As Romans 13 begins, Paul encourages his readers to support the Roman government by paying their taxes because their policies enable the spread of the gospel. Keep this context in mind as you read Romans 13:8-14. He uses the language of taxes and debt to make a point about God. If we owe obligations to governments, what do Christians owe to God? How do we show God our appreciation for life, forgiveness, etc.? His answer is that we owe an ongoing debt of love to God which we pay by loving one another. Each time we love others, it is a sign of love toward God. Christians do not love people because they are lovable but because God treats us as beloved in spite of our sin. Does our call to love others change depending on our circumstances or the way they treat us? According to this model, who in your life displays the most love toward God?

Personal Worship Option: How often do you pray and seek God’s guidance about your financial situation? How would you characterize your giving to the church? How does faith affect your budgeting, spending, savings, giving? Spend time in prayer about these and other financial matters.

Dig A Little Deeper:

13:8 Some use this passage to suggest Christians should not have any financial debt. What are the dangers of debt for Christian believers? If you have debt, what decisions led to it?

13:9 Paul quotes particular passages from the Ten Commandments dealing with human interaction (Deut 5:17-21; Ex 20:13-17).

13:10 Jesus taught this same idea (Mk 12:28-34).  

13:11 Paul refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ in the future, which will close the present age and begin a new age with God. The church lives in this critical period prior to judgment when our witness matters most. How would belief that Jesus is about return soon change how we make decisions? What cautions would you offer for someone living this way? What cautions would you offer someone not living this way?

13:12 Paul uses light/dark imagery in two ways. First, in order to suggest Jesus is returning soon to judge and set creation right, he says we are at the close of night immediately before the dawn breaks. If you knew Jesus would return in less than a month, what “works of darkness” would you stop? What habits would you want to break? What does the Church say to those who are putting off changing their lives in such positive ways?

Second, as “works of darkness” shows, Paul uses dark/light images as symbols of good and evil (1 Thess 5:5-8). We must put on “light,” another way of symbolically saying we are to perform the deeds of one who follows Christ.

13:13 Is “quarreling and jealousy” evil to the same degree as “reveling (carousing) and drunkenness?” Why do so many assume social vice sins are worse than sins which occur within us?

13:14 “Put on the Sovereign Jesus Christ” is most likely taken from an early church baptismal liturgy (Gal 3:27). What images come to mind with this phrase? What do people “wear” if not Christ?

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