“Love your neighbor as yourself” is one of Jesus’ most famous quotations, but it often does not get the depth of understanding it deserves. We understand this command today as simple, trite, and easy, but Jesus understood this as a kind of dedication to others that would not just take a retweet, a post, or even a two-hour service project—it would take up our entire habit of mind. When we follow the context of this teaching from Jesus, we find ourselves in the strange book of Leviticus, discovering that this is not an isolated, trite command, but a summation of many commands that appropriately demand our attention.
The best way to spend your 167 hours is to love God and love your neighbor.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” -Matt. 22:39
“You don’t need to have directly suffered at the hands of some injustices in order to be invested in bringing that injustice to an end. But the internet brings the “I” into everything. The internet can make it seem that supporting someone means literally sharing in their experience—that solidarity is a matter of identity rather than politics or morality, and that it’s best established at a point of maximum mutual vulnerability in everyday life…This framework, which centers the self in an expression of support for others, is not ideal.”
-Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror
“[O]ur mission is not primarily to ‘engage the culture’ but to ‘love our neighbor.’ Our neighbor is not an abstract collective noun, but a real person in a real place.”
-Andy Crouch, Christianity Today, June 2016
The beautiful inconvenience of a neighbor:
WHO DO WE LOVE?
Jesus says “Love your neighbor” - the direct quote is here (Matthew’s Jewish audience):
17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. -Leviticus 19:17-18
Neighbor = the person nearest to you, no matter the circumstances
HOW DO WE LOVE?
- Give generously (v. 9-10)
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 12:9-10)
Where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)
- Live with integrity (v. 11-12)
Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:11-12)
“Self-centered love destroys the city of the soul, and also destroys and overturns our earthly cities…Nothing has so divided the world, turning people against one another, as has self-centered love, from which injustices have sprung and still spring.” - Catherine of Siena, Passion for Truth
- Execute justice (v. 13-16)
Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord. Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.
“Doing justice includes not only righting wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God. It consists of a broad range of activities, from simple fair and honest dealings with people in daily life, to regular, radically generous giving of your time and resources, to activism that seeks to end particular forms of injustice, violence and oppression.”
-Tim Keller, Generous Justice
- Open your heart (v. 17-18)
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:17-18)
"Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference." - David Augsburger
What can you do tomorrow for someone next door?
WHY DO WE LOVE?
…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)
“The primary, compelling and repeated reason why, if you had been an Israelite, you were supposed to observe this compassionate law towards the weak, the enslaved, the impoverished was that this is the way God had actually behaved towards you, when you were in similar conditions.”
-Christopher J.H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics and the People of God, pg. 300
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4:10-12)
Samples of the generous justice found in the Old Testament:
Exodus 22:21-27; 23:4-9; Leviticus 19:9-10, 13-18, 33-34; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 17:7-15, 20:5-7; 21:10-14; 22:1-4, 23:24-25; 24:5-6, 1-15