Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:18
In the days of self-isolation and lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, words by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” rang true. Speaking about injustice, he remarked how he couldn’t sit idly in one city and not be concerned about what happens in another. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” he said, “tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.”
Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted our connectedness as around the world cities and countries closed to stop the spread of the virus. What affected one city could soon affect another.
Many centuries ago, God instructed His people how to show concern for others. Through Moses, He gave the Israelites the law to guide them and help them live together. He told them to “not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life” (Leviticus 19:16); and to not seek revenge or bear a grudge against others, but to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18). God knew that communities would start to unravel if people didn’t look out for others, valuing their lives as much as they did their own.
We too can embrace the wisdom of God’s instructions. As we go about our daily activities, we can remember how interconnected we are with others as we ask Him how to love and serve them well.
Why do you think Jesus echoed God’s law when He told the religious leaders to love their neighbors as themselves? How could you put this instruction into action today?
Loving Creator, help me to share Your love and grace today.
Bible commentator Gordon J. Wenham points out how easy it may be for modern readers to miss the connection between verses 15 and 16 of Leviticus 19. A key concept here is neighbor. In the community life of Israel, legal proceedings didn’t take place at distant seats of judgment; they occurred within the community, often in the same neighborhood. Hence, gossip, slander, or jumping to conclusions about a person you knew well and who faced legal proceedings could be a very real temptation. This naturally leads in to verse 17, in which the people are exhorted not to harbor grudges against a “fellow Israelite” but rather to take disputes to them openly, even before such a conflict requires legal intervention. And this, in turn, leads to the well-known command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18).