love people | Leviticus 19.8-19
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 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 19:9-18 | ESV
“Adding [to the creed] is exactly what Jesus does. Instead of a Love-God Shema*, it is a Love-God-and-Others Shema. What Jesus adds is not unknown to Judaism, and he is not criticizing Judaism. Jesus is setting up his very own shop within Judaism. Loving others is central to Judaism, but it is not central to the creed of Judaism, to the Shema. So, what Jesus says is Jewish. But the emphasis on loving others is not found in Judaism’s creed the way it is found in the Jesus Creed. Making the love of God part of his own version of the Shema shows that he sees love of others as central to spiritual formation.”~ Scot McKnight, The Jesus Creed
Truly loving God issues irrevocably in truly loving others.
This is the ultimate implication of Jesus linking the love of God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength with loving others as ourselves.
John in his first epistle makes that link so emphatically that he throws our loud claims of loving God in our face if in fact we are not loving others: “He that says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, certainly cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this is the command that we have from him, that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21)
Tell us how you really feel, John!
Jesus, in his last words on earth to his followers gave them the “new command” to love one another as he had loved them, and then told them that all people would recognize them as his disciples by their love for one another.
They are inextricably linked, bound, intertwined.
But what God hath joined we all to easily separate as we “bite and devour one another” – all too often in the name of that very same love of God. And this is the pitfall of focusing on that vertical love of God with the horizontal love for others relegated as something of a footnote or side benefit. It makes us cold-hearted religious zealots who kill others, at least with our looks and our words, thinking that we are doing God service.
At least that can be the more extreme result.
In less malignant forms, we are left smugly self-assured of being on the right path as we cluck our tongues and shake our heads at a world that doesn’t get it.
But as the laws in Leviticus clearly demonstrate, the love of God doesn’t just impact what we do for the love of God in tabernacle service and ritual – it dramatically impacts what we do for the love of others in our fields, with our funds, and in our feuds.
How is your love life? How is the driving, pulsating core of God’s love challenging and impelling you to love others? To what acts of love would it lead you today?
Abba God, show me in deepening measure what it really means to love others as I love myself. Awaken me today from apathy and smug indifference, or, worse, from condescending disdain and derision of those made in your image. Awaken me to new vistas of loving others creatively, energetically, expansively. Through Jesus.
* Shema – the first word in the Deuteronomy 6 foundational prayer recited daily, “Hear (sh’ma) Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One…)