Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Love Your Neighbor

Who said it first? Most people would say "Jesus" without hesitation. But actually, Jesus being the good Jew that he was, was simply quoting from Leviticus, a book in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible.

This came up last night in an adult Hebrew class I was attending at Temple Micah. We were studying the Ten Commandments. Our rabbi Toby noted that the commandment was to "honor" your father and mother, not to "love" them. She added that we are never commanded to love. I said, "But what about ‘love your neighbor as yourself’?" Another class member said that we are told "not to hate", which is very different that being told to love.

I remembered it differently and with the help of Google found the verse in Leviticus 19:18:

Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.

This commandment is found in multiple Gospels and in James in the New Testament. After all, it is a fairly universal idea, but one that comes from that initial reference in Leviticus.

As for the "Don’t hate your neighbor", that’s there too in the preceding verse Leviticus 19:17:

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.

I’m still pondering why it’s more important to honor our parents than love them. Is that because God knew there would be many times where a difference of opinion would make love difficult, but honor could still work? I wonder what my children would say about this?

But I’m most struck with how these 5 words are as applicable today as they were in 1000 BCE, or whenever Leviticus was initially written down. If only the world would just embrace this commandment...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hardly a biblical scholar but I was under the impression that Leviticus was a complete jerk. Didnt preachers quote him to justify slavery at one time? -erika

3:09 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Leviticus was not a person's name, but simply the name of a book derived from a Latin root. See Wikipedia's explanation.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I'm nursing a grudge against my neighbors and I am really trying to get over it. They're just so loud! But I need to either figure out a solution or get over it.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- Unfortunately love just doesn't fix all problems...

5:45 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Application of the verse also depends on understanding who your neighbour is. Is it humanity in general? Or is it more exclusive, limited to only your clansmen?

Most people are very loving with their clansmen, tribe, group, whatever, but not so loving with those who are not part of "it". And, since they are not part of "it" (the chosen people, blood, etc), they are obviously not worth a second thought.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we don't love ourselves much, what hope is there for our neighbors?

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Quentin said...

If you're willing to introduce new testament, there's also Paul's letter to the Galatians, chap 5, verse 13:
"For you have been called to live in freedom. Use your freedom to serve one another in love."
Paul's primary struggle at the time was convincing his group to be open to including humanity in general, so that's not a problem that's going away either it seems.
Of course we can each still choose to...

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, we could go on & on with contradictions and repeats in the bible, but your point is that from the beginning these simple truths were taught as laws of human nature and how to do good works and keep peace. To me, it would only make sense, since Jesus was Jewish, that he would refer to The Torah for his 'sermons'.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

You can't make yourself love anything or anyone. Love is an emotion that can't be willed. It either is, or isn't. Honor is a different story.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I want to think this means to treat ALL of humanity in a respectful and kind way. It gets dicey when you start giving love to one group but withholding it from another. Wars have been fought over such sentiments.

Pauline -- Yes, I think this presupposes that we love ourselves and clearly not everyone does. It's hard to imagine that one could embrace humanity with loving arms if self-worth was an issue.

Quentin -- I'm completely open to many of the teachings in the New Testament, especially ones that teach us how to live. My only problem with Paul is that I have always thought he didn't fully appreciate women. But moving beyond that, it's interesting to juxtapose the word FREEDOM with the word LOVE -- how powerful the 2 are together.

OL -- Makes perfect sense. But then everyone around him was Jewish also (except for the Romans.)

Reya -- Yours is the only one that addresses honor. Honor calls up an entirely different set of emotions from love -- emotions that are more rational. Love still defies all efforts to understand, explain, and defend it.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Ask your kids!

Maybe he thought that Loving your parents was a given, without condition. Honour, perhaps needed to be said.

So is respecting the same as honouring your parents. They need to earn your respect and be something to you worth honouring. I do think you can love them without respecting them totally.

And, you can honour them in different ways. You can honour them by acting responsibly as they taught you to do.

9:16 PM  

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