Turning from the Christian’s duty toward his government, Paul returns to our relations with one another.
“Owe nothing to anyone– except for your obligation to love one another.” Romans 13:8 NLT
Jesus has paid an enormous debt for each one of us; He completely satisfied the Justice of God for all the sins of every man– past, present, and future. As a result, every man owes his very life to Jesus. The Christian lives in awareness of this debt; it governs his life decisions, relationships, and actions.
We owe this debt– for our lives, our salvation, our present relationship with God, our hope of eternity with Him– all of this we owe to Jesus and to His Father. And, in this passage, the one thing that is required of us in return is that we love one another. Our love for one another is based on our debt of loving gratitude to Jesus Christ, not on the pleasing characteristics of those we love.
As Paul writes here in Romans 13, God does not want His people in debt to others. Very simply, a debt gives the person to whom you are indebted a claim over you. In Paul’s day, that was meant quite literally; family members or even the indebted individual himself could be sold into slavery in order to pay the debt.
God wants His claim to be the only claim on our lives. Paul takes care to point out that we are not indebted in any way to our old selfish lives, to continue living that way; we are indebted to Jesus Christ, to live in the way He puts before us. We are now to love each other as He commands. This debt, this eternal claim of Jesus Christ upon our souls and our lives, is the only claim that God wants to see over us.