Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Leviticus 19:34
Karen, a middle school teacher, created an activity to teach her students how to better understand one another. In “The Baggage Activity” students wrote down some of the emotional weights they were carrying. The notes were shared anonymously, giving the students insight into each other’s hardships, often with a tearful response from their peers. The classroom has since been filled with a deeper sense of mutual respect among the young teens, who now have a greater sense of empathy for one another.
Throughout the Bible, God has nudged His people to treat one another with dignity and show empathy in their interaction with others (Romans 12:15). As early in the history of Israel as the book of Leviticus, God pointed the Israelites toward empathy—especially in their dealings with foreigners. He said to “love them as [themselves]” because they too had been foreigners in Egypt and knew that hardship intimately (Leviticus 19:34).
Sometimes the burdens we carry make us feel like foreigners—alone and misunderstood—even among our peers. We don’t always have a similar experience to draw on as the Israelites did with the foreigners among them. Yet we can always treat those God puts in our paths with the respect and understanding that we, ourselves, desire. Whether a modern-day middle schooler, an Israelite, or anything in between, we honor God when we do.
Who around you might need your empathy for the burdens they carry? How can you “love them as yourself”?
God, You know the weight in my heart and You graciously unburden me as I put my trust in You. Help me to offer care and compassion toward those in my life.
Leviticus 19 provides a list of dos and don’ts for the Israelites—strict laws given for a reason: so they’d be holy or “set apart” for God. They were to avoid wrong behavior and to do good, specifically in terms of interactions with others (see vv. 3–37). In light of the New Testament, the underlying concept of these laws is still relevant today (loving and taking care of others; being honest, etc.). However, certain specific regulations no longer apply. For example, it’s not necessary to avoid wearing clothes made of two different materials (v. 19), which was commonly only allowed by priests; to make animal sacrifices when we sin (v. 21), because Christ’s death has made atonement for our sin; or to avoid certain beard or hair styles (v. 27), because these practices were associated with those who worshiped false gods. Instead, we can stand out as believers in Jesus by displaying a changed heart—living lives of honesty and integrity and treating others well.