Girl: “Do you love me?”
Boy: “Yes, Dear.”
Girl: “Would you die for me?”
Boy: “No. Mine is an undying love.”
Even though I start off with a joke, this topic isn’t too funny but I hope you will explore it with me as I wrestle with thinking through ‘loving others’ or what it means to ‘love your neighbor’ from Leviticus 19.
I don’t know about you, but I wrestle with this question of – do I love my neighbor? Do I portray the actions of someone who IS A NEIGHBOR to my neighbor? To ANY person that crosses my path? Be that at the store, while driving in my car, or even with my actual physical neighbor who lives next door and those across the street? Because I have tried to show love to my neighbor(s). I say ‘hello’ and I care about my neighbor, especially when I see police cars parked at their house or when I see the ambulance pulled up across the street and a stretcher loaded with a body inside. I care about my neighbor, but I don’t know how to love my neighbor. What if they think I’m weird and nosy? What if they latch on to me and constantly call me for stuff? What about ‘boundaries’ and stewarding my time? These thoughts cross my mind and I wrestle with them because I know I fall short. I see needs but for one reason or another, I walk on by. I am not as ‘loving’ as I say or think I am. The Global Bible Commentary cites “there is always at least ONE WITNESS to every action- God” (p. 40)
Remember when Jesus answered what was most important in the law – love God and love others aka ‘your neighbor’? (Matthew 5:43-48) Well just like the first commandment to love God (originally found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5), This truth to ‘love our neighbor’ is also rooted in the Old Testament. (Whether they actually lived this out or not is questionable as I know how much I have wavered in my faithfulness in loving God with ALL my heart, my mind, my soul, and all my strength.)
Leviticus 19:18 says,
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
And further in Leviticus 19:33-34 the scriptures say,
33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Notice the emphasis there by concluding these statements with “I am the Lord.” That repetition is actually found 15 times in this chapter alone, Leviticus 19, (according to David Guzik’s commentary). God was reminding them that they needed to remember who was who. It could be like a parent’s saying, “Are you listening to me? Remember I brought you into this world…..EYE SMIRK” Just kidding *but not. In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, he adds “3. An upright heart has respect to all God’s commandments, Ps. 119:6. Though in many instances the hand fails in doing what should be done, yet the eye observes all God’s statutes. We are not allowed to pick and choose our duty, but must aim at standing complete in all the will of God.“
Further along in Deuteronomy chapter 10:12-22, the author elaborates and reiterates ‘the essence of the law’ and this reads in the NIV-
12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
God was teaching the people that HE defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and LOVES THE FOREIGNER RESIDING AMONG YOU. (BTW, Foreigner means anyone that is a stranger, non-related, not his chosen people-because that is who this text was directed to.) God loves and cares for foreigners God says that they (and we) are to love them too. This emphasis was carried on throughout the Bible even into the New Testament through Jesus and continuing on through the disciples (consider for example: Ruth 2:10, Matthew 25:35-44, Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles Ephesians 3:1)
Let me add, though, that if you were to go and open up your Bible or your Bible app and read Leviticus 19, or even the whole book of Leviticus (which can be done by the way), you will come across some text that will make you go hmmmmm. So let me be the first to tell you that there are questionable things in there and if I may preface your exploration of Leviticus or even all of the 5 books of the Bible aka the Pentateuch aka the Torah- just know that as in reading all or any Biblical text, pray that the Lord will help you to understand what He wants you to notice and see at this time from HIS WORD. Find a community of believers that you can go through this text with, perhaps someone further along in their journey with God who can help talk through some of these difficult passages and together we can encourage one another (Hebrews 10:23-25). ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and so your understanding won’t likely happen in one sitting (unless the Lord hand does some real work in this situation!!).
When we love our neighbor, even though it might not be common for our culture to do and despite it being uncomfortable and hard, we see Jesus’s theological understanding that love for the other most clearly reveals our love for God. – paraphrased quote from page 90 of the Africana Bible.
Certainly there is more to explore about this topic and unfortunately, I ran out of time. (Let me know if / what you’d like to hear about though or if you have any comments or questions.)
In closing, would you pray with me: John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”
Lord help us to love others like you have loved us. We cannot do it without your help. Give us your heart and your hands oh Lord. Thank you for how you gave up your life, in love, for me that I might be saved to love others just as you have loved me. You are my Lord and my God. Thank you for making a way through the blood of Jesus. Amen.
This summer, I’m taking two accelerated courses and my first one is Christian Scriptures 1. For one of the projects, I chose to submit 3 ten minute sermons on one of the 10 Old Testament books we are covering in class. I chose this assignment so that I could practice delivering Biblical messages to others in a way that every day people can understand. Let me know how I did by sharing your feedback here, via YouTube, or of course you can contact me via social media or email through the buttons on this site.
Blessings to you and yours,