In Romans 13:8, Paul says that we should “owe no man anything except to love one another“ (NKJV). Then he says that “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law“ (verse 8) and that all of the commandments from the Old Testament are summed up in the one command to love your neighbor as yourself (verse 9). In other words, believers fulfill God’s commands by treating others with respect and loving one another.
In the immediate context, Paul commands the Christian to “let no debt remain outstanding“ (Romans 13:8). The Christian must pay all of his or her obligations, whether those be taxes, debts, or something else. The apostle then goes on to say that the only debt a Christian should have is the debt to love one another. That universal debt never ends. It is the only one he or she can never fully repay or pay off. We must always love not only our fellow Christians, but all people whom God has made.
In Matthew 22:34–40, Jesus taught that loving one another was the most important commandment to obey. In this passage, Jesus is approached by the Pharisees who sought to test Him with a difficult question. One of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which commanded the Israelites to love God first and foremost and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. So both Jesus and Paul teach that the most important thing a believer can do is to love God and love one another.
We should owe no man anything except to love one another because this is what God has chosen to do for us. He chose to not give us judgment and punish us for our sins. Instead, He chose to love us by sacrificing His Son, Jesus, on the cross to pay for our sins. Because of this sacrifice, we are forever indebted to God, and we repay that debt by loving Him and loving one another.
To owe no man anything except love can be a difficult and challenging command to live out as a believer. We can be scrupulous in fulfilling our obligations, paying off debt, and giving to each his due. But paying out the love we owe is harder; it seems we’re often short on the currency of love. We get frustrated with one another, disagree with one another, or simply don’t like being around one another. However, in John 13:35 Jesus says that the world “will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (see also John 17:25–26). When we choose to look past our interpersonal challenges and focus on loving one another, we show the mark of disciples and are actually showing the world what God’s love is like.
So we should owe no man anything except love because love is the greatest commandment. It fulfills the law and shows the world who God is.