“You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart. Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:17-18). This ancient law of God.
This Law is mentioned in two of the Books of the Torah; Leviticus and in Deuteronomy in the great Shema statement that is the centerpiece of the Jewish faith. It is also referred to by Jesus when asked by a scholar of the law testing him, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Mt. 22:36) Jesus refers the hypocritical Pharisee back to the Torah when he responds, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Mt. 22:37-40).
This is the very definition of a universal truth, that is, something that is true in all times, in all places. It is something that stands up against every rationalization, every denial, and every lie that is raised up against it. The truth about hatred is that it is useless in solving any problem, rather it is universally destructive. While the hater destroys the object of its attention, he or she destroys something much more precious and priceless than that which he or she causes to his or her victim, for in acting upon his or her hate, he or she destroys his or her own eternal soul. Hatred breeds nothing but pain and destruction. Only love can create reconciliation, healing, and new life.
We will be recognized as Christians only by our love. We are to be the ones who are showing the world the love of God. We are to be forgivers, the reconcilers of broken relationships. Our love is to be a sign of the peace that only Christ can bring to the world. We are to remove hatred in all of its forms, including prejudice, from our hearts. We are supposed to be those who care for the widow, the orphan, the alien in the land. We are supposed to be the Good Samaritans. We are those who are called by God to recognize the wounded, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised of our communities and of our world as our “neighbors.” This is a very powerful admonition to us. Look at the hatred that is so evident in our news, the social divisions rooted in mistrust, and in prejudices of every kind that fill our social media with so much that is vile. And look at we Christians! Even we are divided by denominational arguments and misunderstandings and prejudices. We Christian believers are challenged by today’s verse to recognize how much we have failed to honor these commandments, even among ourselves. In today’s verse, we are to hear the Lord speaking to us now, just as he did to the Israelites in the time of the Leviticus writers. This truth is still THE TRUTH today. We must rid our hearts of hatred. We must reprove one another only out of love, for the sake of each other’s salvation, never for the purpose of setting ourselves above them and condemning them from our pride.
Lord, You have called us to be your disciples and to love one another as you have loved us. Help us to know this in our minds and to live it in our hearts. We can do nothing without your love and your grace. These are enough for us. Give us the courage we need to respond wholeheartedly to this commandment, this truth of your’s, today. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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