Looking for clear guidelines from the Bible about how to behave? You've come to the right place! Paul continues this very practical section of Romans with a look at how Christians ought to be obedient to authority, fulfill the law with love, and shun sinful deeds.
Paul's friendly treatment of rulers in Romans 13:1-7 is sometimes considered controversial, especially by those who find the government oppressive (and these days, who doesn't? - ed.) Critics charge that Paul was naive or ignorant of the abuses of worldly power. Really? In first-century Rome? Where he would eventually be beheaded? Personally, I don't see a wholesale abdication of our responsibility to government so much as I see Paul advocating for us to give the authorities what is fitting. In lines reminiscent of Jesus' "render to Caesar" teaching, Paul concludes, "Pay to all what is due them - taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due." Hard to argue when he puts it like that!
Romans 13:8-10 is a gem. It reveals that the moral law of the Old Testament, such as the quotes from the Ten Commandments, are themselves based on the law of love. A great way to understand why God gave us the laws that He did is to consider that they are inextricably rooted to the greatest commandments Jesus identified: to love God (expanded upon in Commandments I, II, III, and IV) and to love others (described in Commandments V through X). If you don't like the "Thou Shalt Not" wording of the Old Testament, consider the positive basis for them: Love!
Finally, Paul rings a warning bell. It's time to wake up! How we live is important, especially as we realize that time is elapsing. It is always true - just as much as it is today as it was for Paul - that we are closer to the end than we were before. None of us knows the how or when of the end, but we do know it is coming. That is why we must not waste time indulging the flesh. It's always time to put away dark deeds and walk in the light!