“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.”
Now it’s interesting. When you hear this, you need to remember, realize, that in the book of Leviticus, there are all kinds of laws that specifically pertain to God’s people in the Old Testament that don’t pertain in the same way to people in the New Testament. How we tell the difference is we always look in the New Testament, the new covenant for laws that were repeated or laws that were given, commands that were given, to God’s people in the New Testament. When we see something repeated in the New Testament that we also see in Leviticus, we know, okay, that also applies to us.
Think about how much we love ourselves. The revolutionary command of the Bible is to love others like that.
There are other things though, ritual laws, that pertains specifically to an Old Testament sacrificial system that are not repeated in the New Testament, so we know we don’t do those things. That’s just a helpful guide when reading through Leviticus to realize, okay, not all of these laws to God’s people then are laws to God’s people now in the same way. So we always look for that which is repeated in the New Testament.
Here in Leviticus 19:18, we have a clear example of a command given in the Old Testament that is repeated in the New Testament. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, it’s repeated by Jesus as the second greatest commandment, the first being love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then the second, Jesus said, is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. And this is so key to hear, to reflect on, to meditate on, and to apply in our lives. I think oftentimes we think about Leviticus, we think about holiness, how to be clean and pure and holy before God and others, and oftentimes our minds start to go to all these things we should not do. Avoid this, avoid this. We think holiness is staying unstained from these sins and temptations in the world, which is absolutely true. There are many things that we’re told to avoid, to run from.
But here is an example where holiness is defined not by what we don’t do, but by what we do. Holiness defined here in Leviticus 19:18 not by avoiding something, but pursuing someone, specifically our neighbor, by looking for ways to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. To prioritize a neighbor’s needs like they’re our own needs. To look out for their interests as if that’s our own interest. To lay down our lives to serve our neighbor just like we do ourselves. And this is the picture in the Good Samaritan. We are surrounded by neighbors, by people around us in need, and God has called us to be a reflection of his love for them. To love others like we love ourselves. You think about how much we love ourselves. We love ourselves enough to get up in the morning, find some food for us, find provision for us in every way possible, take care of us. If we get sick, we’re doing whatever we can to figure out how to get better. We are constantly consumed. We’re just naturally wired to take care of ourselves. And the revolutionary command here in Leviticus 19:18 is love others like that.
So when you think about holiness, when I think about holiness, let’s make sure we don’t just think about avoiding things or staying away from this or that. Yes, that plays out in many different ways in our holiness. But let’s also think about pursuing people, laying down our lives for people. This is real holiness: loving other people by looking out for their interests. Laying down your life to serve others in their need. This is holiness.
So God, help us to be holy. God, make us holy in this way. Keep us from defining holiness as just staying away from this or that. Help us to see holiness and put holiness into practice in our lives by loving and serving others today. God, help us to look at friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, today around us. Help us to see their needs and help us to love them, meet their needs just like we love ourselves. And we are prone to meet our own needs in our own lives. God, we pray for this kind of love for the people in our family. God, deliver us from selfishness in marriage, parenting, and family. God, we pray for this kind of love for people in our workplace. God, deliver us from cutthroat competition that’s always looking to advance oneself above others. God, help us, yes, to work hard, but help us to work hard at loving other people and serving other people.
God, help us to love the church this way. God, we pray you would deliver us from selfishness, desire for our own needs and our own preferences to be met. God, help us to look out for others’ interests in the church. God, we pray for this kind of love for those who are lost without Christ. God, we pray that you would help us to desire their salvation and love them more than we love our own reputation, any risks that might be involved in sharing the gospel. God, give us this kind of love for the nations, for peoples around us in our communities and peoples around the world. Even those who we look on the news and we say, “These people are enemies.” God, help us to love our enemies. This is the whole picture you’ve given us, oh God, help us to love like this. Please help us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and in so doing to be the holy people you’ve called us to be. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Get Pray the Word daily by subscribing here.