Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.
It’s World War II. It’s nighttime. A paratrooper is about to jump out of a plane. Just before he does, he looks down from the plane’s open door. He sees that he is about to jump into an air space that is alive with explosions, bullets, and flak. “Lord,” he prays, “if you get me through this night, I’ll never have a bad day again.”
The Lord got him through that night. And, as the old veteran loved to say for the rest of his life, “I’ve never had a bad day again.”
Think about that. So profound was the man’s gratitude for the Lord’s deliverance from death, that for the rest of his life he happily obligated himself to look upon the remainder of his days as all good days—every single one.
It’s the same kind of grateful spirit that the good news of Jesus works within Christians. In Romans chapter 13, Paul speaks of what he calls, “the continuing debt to love one another.”
This turn of phrase describes something unique. This is not a debt in the sense that I need to pay something off to God before I get something good in return. Jesus has already paid the debt of my sin in full. On my behalf, he has already lived a life of perfect love. In my place, he has already carried away the guilt of my every sin at the cross. And now, through faith in my risen Savior, I live. I stand forgiven. I am at peace. Heaven awaits.
In light of all this, something wonderful happens. The more this good news sinks in, the greater the gratitude grows. As it does, the Christian soul searches for some way, any way, to show thankfulness to Jesus. And one immediate way to do it is to demonstrate love toward others.
And so there it is. Just as a grateful survivor of war happily obligated himself never to have a bad day again, Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness empowers you and me to obligate ourselves in love to others. We do it not to get something, but to thank God for what we already have.
Lord Jesus, thank you. Give me opportunities to thank you more every day. Amen.