Today, we are reading Romans 13 together. This chapter is relatively short – only 14 verses – but it is full and rich in content. I’d like to focus on the second half of the chapter, in which Paul encourages us to love God, each other, and ourselves well.
Romans 13:8 reads, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” When I first read this, I was confused by the idea that we owe each other our love. After I thought about it a bit more, though, I remembered a conversation in which Jesus answers a scribe’s question regarding which commandment is most important. Jesus says, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) To love, therefore – God first, and then our neighbor – is the greatest commandment, and it is by loving that we fulfill the law.
But doesn’t the fact that Jesus died on the cross in our place mean that we are no longer slaves to the law? Yes: Jesus’ death on the cross put an end to the ritual sacrifices that we read about in the Old Testament. However, Paul is writing AFTER Jesus’ death on the cross, and Paul tells us to continue to love each other. Why? We are to love each other BECAUSE Christ sacrificed Himself for us.
But wait – there’s more. Did you see the end of the commandment in Mark 12:31? We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (emphasis mine). That might be the most difficult part of all, right? I know that I am harder on myself every single day than I am on those around me. So how can we practice loving ourselves well? I’m convinced that one of the best ways we can do this is to cultivate rest. We are a culture that extols busyness – we often wear our busy days as a badge of achievement or of honor.
Instead of perpetuating the culture of busyness, I’d like to encourage you to practice pausing each day. If you’ve never done this before, start small. Just a few minutes, five or ten – go for a slow walk outside, read a few pages of a book, or simply sit and be still. I know that this can be hard. It is hard for me to remember to even take that pause – and then it can be difficult to actually be still, or to read, or to walk slowly in the middle of a busy day. But I can also tell you from personal experience that it helps. Traditionally, Sunday afternoons have been my rest times. But I rarely took the time to rest at all during the week, at least until it was time to go to sleep. I’m finding, though, that taking even one short pause during the day resets my brain and renews me, allowing me to finish the rest of the day in a more peaceful state of mind. It helps to slow the tide of busy back to a more manageable, healthy pace. When we walk through life unrushed and unhurried, we have more margin to love those around us well.
Will you try this with me?