The debt of a Christian

foot washing

We are in debt to everybody!

(J. R. Miller, “The Building of Character” 1894)

“Little children, we must not love in word or speech—but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:18

“Do not owe anyone anything—except to love one another.” Romans 13:8

We are in debt to everybody! Love is a debt which never can be altogether settled. You may pay it all off today—but tomorrow you will find it as heavy as ever. It is a debt which everybody owes to everybody. Nor can it be paid off with any mere sentimental love. It cost Paul a great deal, to settle his obligations and pay his debts to others.

There is a sort of philanthropic sentiment which some people have, which does not cost them very much. But to pay his debts of love, Paul gave up all he had, and then gave himself up to service, suffering, and sacrifice to the very uttermost. True love always costs! Love’s essential quality, is unselfish helpfulness, the carrying of the life with all its rich gifts and powers in such a way—that it may be a blessing to every other life which it touches.

As Christians, we owe love to everyone—and love always serves. Serving is an essential quality of love. The true standard of greatness—is service. It is not what our life is in gifts, in culture, in strength—but what we do with our life, which is the real test of character. Our Lord taught this truth when he said, “Whoever wants to become great among you—must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first—must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43-44. He who serves the most fully and the most unselfishly, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Love seeks to give, to minister, to be of use, to do good to others. The true Christian desires to serve others, to minister to their comfort, to be a help and a blessing to them. It is thus, that we should relate ourselves to every person who comes within our influence. Love will lead us to ask concerning everyone who passes before us, “What can I do to help this brother of mine, to add to his happiness, to relieve his trouble, to put him in the way of holiness, to comfort his sorrow?” If this were the habitual attitude of our love, paradise would soon be restored. It would put an end to all our miserable pride, to all our petty tyrannies and despotisms.

Love works most effectively—when it works unconsciously, almost instinctively, inspired from within. That is the best service, which flows out of the heart and life—as light from the sun, as fragrance from a flower. There is no other way of paying our debt of love to others, which is so Christlike as this. We are to be to others—what Jesus would be, if He were in our place!

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