The ‘Debt’ of Love [v126]

AUGUST 2009

THE ‘DEBT’ OF LOVE
Last month I talked about “financial debt”—something that can ‘destroy’ ones life. But having some more time to think about the concept a bit more, I came up with a kind of debt that was more important.

First off, there’s the concept of owing someone a ‘debt of gratitude’, or a large amount of thanks for something someone has done for us. There’s also the notion of paying one’s ‘debt to society’, which is a cliche to serve a sentence for ones crime. But, coming full circle back to the financial again, there’s three ‘major’ kinds of debt: secured (usually backed by physical property); unsecured (i.e. credit cards; amounts owed for services rendered, etc.); and a personal guarantee (based on a person net worth, or his/her ‘ability’ to obtain funds).

So, continuing with the personal aspect of all this, I have observed that we all have this ‘innate feeling’ that any kind of indebtedness is not ‘good’—and it seems that this is a part of our internal ‘makeup’. Even still today, many very old cultures have an ‘awareness’ of the seriousness of debt, and have developed proper ‘reparations’ for it over the centuries.

For the Indian culture (the Indus Valley civilization–present day India), estimated to be over 5,000 years old, the concept of indebtedness or obligation still plays a strong role. As humans, they believe that God is obliging us, that children have an obligation towards their parents, and students are indebted to their teachers.

It is posited that a student has right to learn, and the teacher has the right to teach, but the student is always being obliged to the teacher. This allows for the teacher to do their best work—but there needs to be a complete ‘surrender’ on the part of the student.

A good analogy for this is that of a diamond. A student is like a raw diamond, completely in the hands of his teacher. If then the diamond ‘yields’ completely, then the ‘cutter’ can do his best job in bringing out the true beauty of the gem through his careful cutting and polishing. Everything is left in the hands of the able teacher—he is the ‘creator’.

This creates an enormous ‘obligation’ on the part of the student, and how is the student to repay the teacher? Some give money, others do “seva” (selfless service), but in the Indian culture, this is still not enough to relieve oneself of the obligation towards one’s teacher.

First, if your teacher feels you are capable, you are to teach 1,000 students what he has taught you.  Secondly, the student is to then strive to go one step further than their teacher, and advance that ‘specialty’ even further.

All this being said, I’d like to propose that there’s a ‘kind’ of debt that is more important than that of the financial kind—and I dare say, that it is the MOST IMPORTANT kind of debt any of us can be ‘obligated’ to. That is the ‘DEBT’ OF LOVE.

Much has been written about love—to quantify and understand it—and scores of books, movies, songs, and poems have all tried to give good ‘counsel’ of how to propagate the best kind of love (see Deep Thoughts #109 for a lot more ‘stats’ about love).

“All you need is love,” and “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” were very popular ballads of a number of years ago. They expressed desires that virtually everyone holds. But what is love?

If what is happening in the world today is any evidence, it is very clear to me that the world has only the foggiest of notions about what love really is—and judging by this commonly held ‘understanding’ of love, I don’t think the world needs any more of it! It doesn’t look like it to me that the world really knows—or the songs that ‘talk’ about it wouldn’t be making a strong ‘declaration’ of need for it!

Love is a much-abused term. Because of our experiences, we all have somewhat different ideas about it. The most prevalent notion in the Western world is that love is a warm, topsy-turvy feeling, a thrill one gets in the pit of the stomach or a tingle running up and down the spine. We think of it as a warm sense of regard, a strong desire to be with or be satisfied by someone or something.

Some have equated it with caring, benevolent giving, or nothing more than sheer emotionalism. On occasion, we use the term very casually and loosely. People express they “love their life.” Some will say they just “love” a certain ice cream, beer, pizza, style of house, color, automobile, fashion, performer, or team. People say they love an endless number of things. What some call “love” a theologian might call “unbridled lust.”

Well, continuing along the theological ‘trail’, these statements become incongruous once we begin to understand what Biblical love is. People’s “love” of something is merely an opinion, a preference. A preference is not love, and to use the term love in this way ‘devalues’ it.

So, what specifically does the Bible have to say about what love ‘is’, and our ‘obligation’ to practice it? In a ‘letter’ written almost 2,000 years ago to a church in Corith, Greece, by a guy named Paul of Tarsus—better know today as the apostle Paul—he penned a ‘passage’ that is today sometimes referred to as the “love chapter.” It is frequently read at weddings as a ‘summary’ of the couple’s aspirations for their marriage:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails… now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” [1 Corinthians 13:4-13].

In this passage, the Bible reveals LOVE’S SUPREME IMPORTANCE to life. The apostle Paul emphasizes love’s completeness, permanence, and supremacy over all other qualities we consider important in life.

This indicates that Biblical love is not something we have innately. True, some forms of this quality we call love come unbidden—that is, they arise by nature. But this is not so with the love of God. It comes through the action of God through His Spirit—something supernatural [Romans 5:5].

So then, what does the Bible have to specifically say about the ‘DEBT’ OF LOVE? Well, again the apostle Paul, speaking to the church in Rome at that time, said, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” [Romans 13:8-10].

So, what does “as yourself” mean? Well, current psychological thought considers this to be “self-esteem”—to love yourself means you have high self-esteem, and not to love yourself means you have low self-esteem.

Without going into the psychological aspect of this too deeply, I believe this scheme misses the point, since most of us love ourselves already. We all have that ‘built-in’ desire for happiness, and know how to ‘please’ ourselves. What the apostle is saying is that we all should take this deep, primal, and powerful desire to make ourselves happy, and make it the ‘measure’ and the means of making others happy. In other words, make the degree of your ‘SELF-SEEKING’ the measure of your ‘SELF-GIVING’.

This means that if you are energetic in pursing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are creative in pursuing your own happiness, be creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are persevering in pursuing your own happiness, be persevering in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor.

Simply, seek for your neighbor the same things you seek for yourself, and seek them in the same way—with the same zeal, energy, creativity, and perseverance. Measure your pursuit of the happiness of others by the pursuit of your own. How do you pursue your own well being? Pursue your neighbor’s well being that way, too. Are you hungry? Feed your hungry neighbor. Are you thirsty? Give your thirsty neighbor a drink. Are you lonely? Befriend someone who is lonely. Are you frightened? Find someone to comfort.

The beautiful and amazing thing about this is that when the happiness of others becomes the goal of our desires, our desires don’t die, they GAIN the very thing that we thought we had given up—our own ‘BLISS’!

This is a very radical concept—and it leads to the concern that not all of our desires for our own happiness are a good ‘guide’ for what is good for others. We must have some ‘standard’ of what we seek for others, besides what we seek naturally for ourselves. So, how can we determine this?

Well, I’m thinking that Jesus is sort of an ‘expert’ on this, and He was pretty clear about how important He thought this was, by giving us some insight into a ‘standard’ for us to work on achieving.

First off, He said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.” Ouch!

Then, He raises this standard a ‘notch’ or two by saying, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” This is a great challenge, confirming that the love of God is certainly not ‘natural’ to us.

Then, the ‘coup de gras’, He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” Here He makes His love the ‘measure’ of our love for others. Wow, that’s some HIGH STANDARD (i.e. impossible).

We are dealing with a love that is just UNATTAINABLE. So how does God expect us to even attain a miniscule portion of this kind of love? Well, there’s good news!—He doesn’t—and that’s why He sends us a “counselor,” the Holy Spirit, to aid us in this endeavor—since this is only possible for those who God has MADE US PARTAKERS of His divine nature when we accept His Son as our Savior and ‘intercessor’ to God the Father.

The apostle Peter said this much better than I can:

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” [2 Peter 1:2-4].

Love, godly love, is the fruit, the ‘product’ of that Spirit which now courses through our lives—leading us into all truth. It remains our responsibility, however, to choose to follow His guidance, to obey the truths of God who is creating His ‘image’ in us.

Only by KNOWING GOD can we have this love, and only BY LOVING can we know Him! This may sound like a ‘viscious cycle’, but the two go together. Only by learning to love God can we learn His nature, that is, what He is like. We cannot have that love until we first come to know Him. By ‘fellowshipping’ with Him, we come to know Him and receive His love, and in using His love, we become like Him and really know Him. We can only really come to know God by experiencing the use of His love ourselves.

At this point you might get the ‘jest’ of how important God’s ‘kind’ of love is, but might not yet understand how it has ‘become’ a debt for you.

Well, the ‘debt’ I’m talking about here is not like the debts I discussed last month that you can pay off—like mortgages, car payments, credit cards, and the such, or because someone has done something for us or given something to us.

The apostle Paul said that he was “under obligation [literally “debtor” (opheiletes cimi)] to everyone” because of what Jesus had done for him—by bestowing free grace upon him when he was a persecutor of His followers, and for giving His life for him, taking away all his sin, guilt and condemnation, and guaranteeing him everlasting life in Heaven.

So, you may think that we should then be ‘debtors’ to Christ, since it is He who has done this for us. Ah, but since all of our acts of so-called repayment are ‘enabled’ by Christ’s grace and mercy (grace is receiving a free gift for what we don’t deserve, and mercy is not receiving what we do deserve), we go deeper into ‘debt’ with each one. So, if you could pay back grace, then it would become a ‘transaction’, and would no longer be grace. Grace is free, or it is not grace.

In other words, our debt is utterly unique. It is a kind of debt created by something we received, but which must be paid not to the one who gave it, but to others who, like us, don’t deserve it. The ‘pressure’ to pay it does not come from the ‘merit’ of the one we pay, but from the mercy we have received from Christ!

This is similar to an accounting practice called a “bad debt write-off.” This is when the debt amount owed is so ‘astronomical’ that the debtor would never be able to repay it, so the ‘lender’ removes the debt from their accounts receivable and tells the debtor to remove it from their accounts payable. Christ does the same with our sins—putting them behind the back of God, never to be ‘seen’ again [Hebrews 10:17].

Here’s how the apostle John put it: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought (i.e. “debtors” opheilomen) to lay down our lives for our brothers” [1 John 3:16]. Then John said, ” Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought (i.e. “debtors” opheilomen) to love one another” [1 John 4:11].

So, since Jesus doesn’t need to be ‘paid back’ for the grace and mercy He has given to us, He wants us to ‘PAY IT FORWARD’ (see Deep Thoughts #37) to everyone we meet—WITH EVERY ‘ACT’ we do to be done with love [1 Corinthians 16:14].

I then, am feeling ‘indebted’ to encourage you to MAKE YOUR PEACE with God now—if not, according to the Scriptures, your life will become ‘IMPOVERISHED’ and you will be ‘BANKRUPT’ to the deepest level of your being—for now and forever!!!

[Excerpts from: Bob George; John W. Ritenbaugh; John Piper; Tom Cheatham]

[Click this link to read about how you can have contentment in this life:
http://www.thesearchformeaning.net/sfm_pres/sp_q9_d4_1of10.html ]

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v126) for AUGUST 2009

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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LOVE IS A DEBT!
“In civil debts between man and man, the more they pay, the less they have; but, in this debt of love, it is quite contrary. The more we pay, the more we have. The more grace from God, the more love to others. Love, like the widow’s oil, increases by being poured out. By paying other debts we grow poorer-by paying this debt, we grow richer.” [Thomas Watson]

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TWELFTH NIGHT
Act 1, Scene 1

DUKE ORSINO

O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame
To pay this DEBT OF LOVE but to a brother,
How will she love, when the rich golden shaft
Hath kill’d the flock of all affections else
That live in her; when liver, brain and heart,These
sovereign thrones, are all supplied, and fill’d
Her sweet perfections with one self king!
Away before me to sweet beds of flowers:
Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.

Exeunt.
[William Shakespeare]

*****************************
ALAS, AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED
Theme: “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Apostle Simon Peter replied, “‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’

‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said” [Luke 7:41-43].

Isaac Watts replied: “I have made no pretence to be a poet. But to the Lamb that was slain, and now lives, I have addressed many a song, to be sung by the penitent and believing heart.”

Fanny Crosby replied, while hearing Isaac’s hymn: “I surrendered myself to the Savior, and my very soul flooded with celestial light. I sprang to my feet, shouting ‘Hallelujah.'”

1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?

2. Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

3. Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
when Christ, the mighty maker, died
for man the creature’s sin.

4. Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine
and bathed in its own blood
While the firm mark of Wrath Divine
His soul in anguish stood.

5. Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

6. But drops of grief can ne’er repay
THE DEBT OF LOVE I OWE.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
’tis all that I can do.

At the Cross refrain:

At the cross, at the cross,
where I first saw the light,
and the burden of my heart rolled away;
it was there by faith I received my sight,
and now I am happy all the day.
[Isaac Watts]

*****************************
DEEP THOUGHT:
“Human beings owe a debt of love to one another because there is no other method of paying the debt of love and care which all of us owe to providence.” [Nathaniel Hawthorne]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”
[Romans 13:8-10].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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