13 It is important that all of us submit to the authorities who have charge over us because God establishes all authority in heaven and on the earth. 2 Therefore, a person who rebels against authority rebels against the order He established, and people like that can expect to face certain judgment. 3 You see, if you do the right thing, you have nothing to be worried about from the rulers; but if you do what you know is wrong, the rulers will make sure you pay a price. Would you not rather live with a clear conscience than always have to be looking over your shoulder? Then keep doing what you know to be good and right, and they will publicly honor you.
4 Look at it this way: The ruler is a servant of God called to serve and benefit you. But he is also a servant of God executing wrath upon those who practice evil. If you do what is wrong, then you’d better be afraid because he wields the power of the sword and doesn’t make empty threats.
At the time, Christians are a tiny minority within Judaism, a minor religion in the largest empire the world has ever seen. Minorities are often the subjects of rumors, suspicions, and innuendos. Christians don’t need to add to the problem by developing a reputation as lawbreakers and rebels. So Kingdom citizens are not to dodge taxes or cheat on fees imposed by legitimate governing authorities. They are to show the proper respect for officials in power. Ultimately those who follow the truth of the gospel under the banner of the Anointed One may find themselves at odds with the powers that be. But Paul’s counsel here is not a blanket approval of any and every government that may arise in a broken world.
5 So submission is not optional; it’s required. But don’t just submit for the sake of avoiding punishment; submit and abide by the laws because your conscience leads you to do the right thing. 6 Pay your taxes for the same reason because the authorities are servants of God, giving their full attention to take care of these things. 7 Pay all of them what you owe. If you owe taxes, then pay. If you owe fees, then pay. In the same way, give honor and respect to those who deserve it.
8 Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commands given to you in the Scriptures—do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not take what is not yours, do not covet[a]—and any other command you have heard are summarized in God’s instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Does love hurt anyone? Absolutely not. In fact, love achieves everything the law requires.
Believers are not to have any obligation of any kind. Borrowed money and granted favors always come with strings attached. How many lives and families have been ruined by debts and deals made in haste! There is only one obligation Paul allows, and that is love. When we share God’s care and compassion with others, we fulfill His law whether we realize it or not. Fundamentally, God’s law has always been about love.
11 And now consider this. You know well the times you are living in. It is time for you to wake up and see what is right before your eyes: for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The darkness of night is dissolving as dawn’s light draws near, so walk out on your old dark life and put on the armor of light. 13 May we all act as good and respectable people, living today the same way as we will in the day of His coming. Do not fall into patterns of dark living: wild partying, drunkenness, sexual depravity, decadent gratification, quarreling, and jealousy. 14 Instead, wrap yourselves in the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, and do not fuel your sinful imagination by indulging your self-seeking desire for the pleasures of the flesh.