Second Reading: Romans 13:11-14

Love and Anticipation

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Is this true? Why or why not?

Popular Translation

11 Love your neighbor because you know the Lord will return soon. It’s time to wake up! Our salvation is closer now than when we first believed the Good News.

12 The night is almost over; it will soon be dawn. So put dark deeds aside and put on the weapons of God’s light. Live a good life as if the day Jesus returned were already here! Don’t party all the time. Don’t be unfaithful. Don’t be jealous or talk behind others’ backs. 14 Instead, surround yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ! Don’t make room in your hearts for evil desires.

Literal Translation

11 And (it is) this (that love fulfills the Law), knowing the right timing (for the LORD to return), because (it is) the hour (for) you to be raised from slumber, for our salvation is nearer than when we (first) believed. 12 The night advanced; the day has come near. Let us set aside the deeds of the dark and let us clothe (ourselves) with the weapons of light. 13 As in the day, let us walk (throughout life) in a becoming fashion, not in revelry or drunkenness, not in beds or debauchery, not in strife or jealousy, 14 but let us clothe (ourselves) in the LORD JESUS CHRIST and do not make provision for desires of the flesh.

13:11 “And (it is) this (that love fulfills the Law)” The clause is literally “And this..” The word “this” referred to 13:10 (love of neighbor fulfilled the Law). In the context of the next clause, “this” takes on an urgency, not a statement of fact. In other words, “love your neighbor” was a means to anticipate the Lord’s return.

“because (it is) the hour (for) you to be raised from slumber” Paul used the term “sleep” as an analogy for “death.” Here, he added a second analogy: unbelief was a “slumber” or deathlike state. In other words, he drew a parallel between spiritual and physical death. Baptism was a means to resurrect the neophyte in a spiritual sense. The coming of the Lord in glory would raise the physically dead to new life.

13:12 “The night advanced; the day has come near” Paul used another analogy between this life and the next in the terms “night” and “day.” The “day” referred to the “day of the Lord,” the Judgement Day, also the day of salvation. In this sense, “night” is the present age with the presence of evil.

In these few verses from Romans, Paul reminded his audience of two major Christian themes: an ethic life and an anticipation of the Second Coming. He inferred the first theme in 13:11 when he tried to answer the question: why live an ethical life? In 13:10, Paul stated the common Christian reason: love fulfills the Law. But, then he inferred another reason that the note above explained: an ethical life was a means to anticipate the coming of the Lord. Love rooted the ethical life AND a belief in the end time. As a Christian loved, he or she would treat others with a sense of respect and would yearn for the Savior, the center of Christian love, to return.

Both themes interacted. To truly look forward to the Lord’s coming, one must set aside immorality and bathe him or herself in the presence of the Lord. And to see Christ in others daily was to have a deep desire for his full presence at the end of time. Paul seemed to view Christian love as the power that undergird and interwove many beliefs.

Paul always insisted that salvation was realized in faith. But, he also held that Christian love was the glue of the community. In these verses, he extended his view of love as the basis to realizing faith in life.

Absence does make the heart grow fonder. But, when it comes to the Lord, absence should cause us to love others more. And to use this love to prepare for his coming.

How does love encourage your faith? How does serving others strengthen your yearning for the Lord?