"Owe no man any thing, but to love on another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
I owe no one any thing but love?
This was a really important verse for me to read. I think that like many people I have a tendency to deal with emotions and interactions almost like a trade-system. You smile at me, I smile back. You let me borrow your car, I let you use my laptop. I send you a graduation card, you send me a birthday card. It's this sort of this give and take relationship. Which I think we all sorta expect from each other -- and if someone isn't holding up their end of things then they generally stop receiving our friendship. Fair is fair right?
But if you think about it, that is not how God's relationship with us works.
And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
He just gives and gives and gives and we NEVER really hold up our end of the relationship. We are always the "bad friend" of the two and the one who doesn't really bring much to the table.
And yet we expect this in our relationships with each other? That's like the parable in Matthew 18 of the debtor who owed his Lord ten thousand talents (and could not pay). But while his lord forgave him his large debt, he himself was unwilling to forgive his fellow servant who owed him only one hundred pence. Our relationship with God is so HUGELY unequal, yet we let ourselves be loved and given to. Our relationships with others seem at times "unequal" and we must learn to love and give despite that if we want to truly emulate our Lord.
When it comes down to it...who am I to judge the "equality" of the relationships I have anyways? My responsibility is to love, not to judge whether or not the other person deserves it or is accepting it well enough or is loving me back with the appropriate appreciation. Those things are lovely when they occur -- and it certainly seems more mutually beneficial and joyous to be in an equal sharing relationship...but that doesn't mean if they aren't there that I am allowed to dissolve that connection or stop giving however I can. If I honestly believe every person in my life, in every degree of closeness, is in my life for a reason (which I do) then like it says in Romans, I owe them my love. It's the only thing I owe -- and it entails the whole spectrum of the law; I owe respect, and gratitude, graciousness, forgiveness, prayers -- everything that falls under the definition of love that fits the circumstances of that relationship.
Which is hard. It is hard to love someone who doesn't seem to love you back. It's hard to love someone who doesn't seem to respect you. It's hard to love someone who doesn't even seem to want to have you in their life.
But God always loves us -- even when we don't love Him back, disrespect Him, and try to shut Him out of our lives. So I have to learn to love those who are hard to love. And not give up on loving them in whatever ways I am able to love. The nature of our interactions may change (God said to love our enemies, not to invite them to our house) but in whatever way is appropriate for that relationship I can try to love.
(This verse taught me a whole new side of how far I still have to go in learning to love like God. I hope I can begin to apply it. Not just with the difficult cases, but with the ones I am used to loving too!)
P.S. I just got some verbal feedback and I want to say I am by no means condoning staying in unhealthy relationships! If you are in a relationship that is in any way emotionally or physically abusive you should NOT stay in that relationship -- and you do not have to in order to love that person. You can love them outside of the relationship, where you are safe, through forgiveness and prayers on their behalf. Love manifests itself in many ways and you should only allow your love for someone to be shown in ways that are healthy and appropriate.