8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. – Roman 13:8-10
I went to a liberal arts college and majored in Classical Languages and Philosophy. Let me tell you, the job offers were pouring in. (I am being facetious)
In my philosophy classes, I came to believe that there are two types of ethical systems in the world.
One system is primarily outcome based. It seeks to bring about a certain outcome. Therefore, all actions serve that purpose. If an action serves that purpose, it can usually be justified.
The problem with this ethical system is that it can often devolve into ‘the ends justify the means’. Sometimes, some very unethical actions are justified or accepted because they serve the end or outcome.
Another ethical system primarily action based. This is the belief that whatever the outcome, the actions need to be ethical in and of themselves. Of course, the shortcoming of this system is it may not bring about a desired outcome. But its emphasis is one does the ‘right thing’ regardless the outcome.
The difference between the two might be in this simplistic comparison: I find $1,000 dollars in a bag on the street. Should I keep it since I really could use the money (outcome base) or should I seek to find the owner (action based). There are good reasons supporting both sides.
In Romans 13, Paul writes, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
It seems to me this supports the second or ‘action based’ ethical system. We are to live in actions that reflect love regardless of the outcome.
This passage is near the end of a series of passages which call for the individual to live by certain actions. These actions are different reflections of love. They include but are not limited to:
- Contribute to the needs of the others
- Extend hospitality to strangers.
- Bless those who persecute you;
- Rejoice with those who rejoice,
- Weep with those who weep.
- Live in harmony with one another;
- Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil,
- So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
- Never avenge yourselves,
- If your enemies are hungry, feed them;
- If they are thirsty, give them something to drink;
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Be subject to governing authorities.
- Love others
All of these reflect love for others. Most of all they reflect the love Jesus exercised for his enemies, for the outcasts and for the marginalized. It is the same love with which Jesus loved us even though he went to the cross for such love.
The point is, whatever the outcome, we are called to live in the same love with which Jesus loved each one of us.
May God enable you to love with just such a love.
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California