“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:7-10)
In the context of righteously submitting to God's authorities, the Lord says, Owe no man anything. This sentence is often taken out of its context and used solely for a “proof text” concerning financial debt. Financial debt is sinful, and the book of Proverbs has much to say about it. Also, the principle of this verse may be applied to financial debt; however, the main thrust is to warn against failing to meet one's obligations of showing Christian love toward all. The saint who rebels against authority, and does not show the love of Christ to ungodly individuals of government, makes himself a debtor to man. Why? Because he has failed to pay them that which he owes them the most, the love of God. The love which Christ has bestowed upon His people brings with it the responsibility to reach others. The believer owes the lost man the love of Christ, and submission to authority is required in order to demonstrate this love. The rebel doesn't care about the souls of government's ministers; he cares only for himself. He is hateful and proud; he stews over the injustices of those in power while forgetting that, in this very act, he is guilty of the root sin of pride. By subjecting himself to the powers which God has allowed to be, he is able to fully demonstrate Christ's love. He is then free from the bond of pride and hatred. Undoubtedly, he will experience great injustices at the hands of government, but such is not the main point. The main point is that God be glorified through an attitude of faith and charity. When government fights against God's people, they fight against God, and God can take care of His children. The believer need not preoccupy himself with such matters, lest he be found to be usurping God's authority.
The verb behind the phrase hath fulfilled is in the perfect tense. It represents that which is fully complete and eternally effective. The five commandments listed here represent those of man's responsibility to man. The Christian who demonstrates the love of Christ completely satisfies the Law's spiritual requirements of man-to-man conduct, but the rebel is plagued by the fact that he is a debtor, not only to man, but ultimately to God Himself.
Christian charity cannot possibly harm the unbelievers of secular authority; therefore, the man who exercises it receives the commendation of his Creator. Humility manifests itself in Christian love, but pride is the favorite attire of the rebel. How many people have been won to Christ through hatred? Not a one. However, the demonstration of God's love has been the helper of millions; therefore, the saint who practices it truly owes no man anything. God's people need to stop viewing the individuals of authority as the enemy. Satan is the true enemy. He simply uses the lost men of governments. Christians must view these people as objects of God's love. They must show Christ's love through humble submission, and when government commands disobedience toward God, say with boldness and humility, “...We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).”
These verses are not negating the need for righteous indignation; they are not forbidding the act of self-defense, nor are they forbidding all acts of war. The Scriptures make it clear that such things have a time and a place. These verses are simply dealing with the heart attitude of submission. All too often, believers rebel against authority, unjust or not, and label such sin as “righteous indignation” or “self-preservation” when, in reality, it is nothing more than a lack of the fear of the LORD.