Posted by: duncandrews | August 18, 2011

Obligation transposed

Rom 13:7-8:

7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
8 Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one other; for the one who loves another person fulfills the law.

Love for the other is for Paul the one social obligation that has perpetual significance in the Christian life. However, Paul does not simply transfer concepts of obligation to the church, but rather uses the language of obligation to introduce a new way of relating. The indicatives of the gospel in Rom. 3:21-11:36, especially the declaration of God’s love in Christ in chapter 8, provide the context for this new way. Paul begins this section (12:1-13:14) by grounding his imperatives ‘in view of God’s mercy’ (12:1). While other debts can and should be paid, the gratuitous love and mercy of God in the gospel creates a community in which grace, not reciprocity, is the ground of its being and the ongoing grammar of its relationships. Obligation is therefore transposed to grace expressing itself in love.

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