Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We Are Not Debt-Free

Back in the country where I grew up, we believe in a superstition that whatever your condition is on the first day of the year, it is likely that it will remain that way for the whole year.  As a result it is everyone's goal to set their lives in the best position before the clock strikes midnight on the eve of new year.  People clean their houses really well, fill up their food containers (pantries), get a new hairdo, new clothes, food on the table - enough to be hospitable and generous. etc.  But beyond all these, the most important of them all is the deep-seated tradition to settle all debts before the year ends.  People try everything to be found debt-free when the year turns.  In fact work places give a 13th-month pay to employees just so they may be able to have an abundant table and to settle remaining obligations at the end of the year.  We all, not only Filipinos, find a sense of peace when any accountability is fulfilled.  We all desire freedom.  Who doesn't?  However, I'm not going to continue talking about the debts that we can pay for.

There is a debt that is different from the ones that keep us awake at night.  It is not like the ones that make us want to hide our faces from other people nor the ones that make us grumpy because we didn't pay them on time.  But even if we don't feel this way about this obligation, we ought to because it is heavier than the ones that we all are accustomed to thinking about.  This debt is something we will never be released from.  This is the continuing debt to love one another. Love one another continually.  It is the only way that we will be able to fulfill the law of God.

The verse in Romans 13:8 says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law."

1. Debt to love remains.  No amount of payment will ever free us from the duty to love one another. There is no end to love.  Your mortgage payment will at some point be paid in full but you and I will never be freed from the obligation to love.

2.  Love is not a limited resource.  Love never ends - there is no limit to love.  You can't give it all nor consume it all.  There is no excuse for not being able to love.  For as long as you are connected to the Source, there will always be a steady supply of the grace you need to love.

3.  Love is everyone's obligation to everyone.  In the ideal world people love each other.  However, our human nature compels us to discriminate when we love.  We love those whom we expect to get favor from or those who have shown favor to us - never mind the others.  The scripture says that we are to love others as we love ourselves.

In the Philippine-culture there exist a similar, but not the same, indebtedness - the one that can never be settled.  They are the help extended out of kindness.  The name for this kind of debt is"utang na loob"  (meaning debt that is internal).  This debt remains inside your chest not your chest of gold but the chest that holds your heart.  The only difference from the love that is talked about in Romans 13:8 is that the loving here is limited to the one with whom you owe kindness to.

Once upon a time, there was a King who came out of his palace, and out of his kingdom to come and live in a desperate world of sinful man. These men are walking-dead because they are bound to die with all the punishment due upon them.  The king took it upon himself all their debts paid for all of them with His own.  He lived in poverty and eventually gave up his life in order to pay the full price. He gladly gave it all up so that the walking-dead would have life.  The King is Jesus Christ.  We the people are the walking-dead.

We must love the King who purchased our life with his own so that we get the freedom.  And as people who have been purchased through love - the love of God, he left us a legacy of not only a life of freedom but a life of love.  As free people we have the confidence to show off our inheritance. He said, "love as I have loved you."  With all mercy and grace, He loved us.  We no longer live in scarcity but in abundance through Him.  There is no need to hoard on love, we can be generous now. The problem is, we remain to live our lives as if we are still in debt.  We fail to love because we live in a limited resource mentality.  We fail to be generous because we have not figured out the extent of the inheritance we have.

This is the beginning of a year.  It is time to make a resolution. Make an installment on that continuing debt - one person at a time.  Happy New Year!  

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