When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is from G_d he responds by combining two passages from the Hebrew Text (Old Testament) – Deut. 6.4 and Leviticus 19.18. For many of us we only know this passage from Jesus’ usage of it in the New Testament, but to the believers of Jesus’ day they would have known particularly Deut. 6.4 – you see as a Jew you were to pray this prayer when you lie down and when you arise – This passage is called the She’ma (which means “Hear”) because it begins with, “Hear O Israel, The Lord is your G_d, The lord alone. Love the Lord your G_d with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might…” The imagery here is that of total dedication to G_d. The heart is your will, the soul is your thoughts, your might is your actions. So we could say (loosely) that this verse should read something like, “Love the Lord your G_d with all your will, with all your thoughts, and with all your actions.” Wow! How amazing that would be to live in this manner.
Jesus takes it a step further. He says that that is a good way for you to live…but we (being fallible) could make this all about us. G_d has always been about community and relationship – we on the other hand can be self-centered and not desire to be in community with others. Our faith is best lived out in relationship and so Jesus knowing our hearts reminds us at the end that though it is the most important thing – Loving G_d, with your will, thoughts, actions – it must be done in close relationship with the way in which we act toward our neighbors!
The passage: “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus and it concludes a section of Text that speaks to how we are to treat each other and even more specifically to those who may not have what we have. Earlier in the passage G_d commands us to leave the corners of our field for the poor and the person passing through (Lev.19.9-10). This strikes me because G_d leaves it to us to determine how much of our field to leave. He just says ‘corners’ – we are left to wrestle with what that looks like in our lives. G_d is calling us to radical generosity to those around us. G_d then goes on to express (v. 11-12) that we should not steal, take advantage of, or lie to those around you…you should not profane His name – which means that you should not act in a manner that is not of G_d’s character and represent yourself as being in His character. In other words, don’t do what G_d wouldn’t do and then declare it to be godly. I love the next section of this passage (v. 13 – 14). G_d tells us that we should not curse in the ear of a deaf man – another way of looking at this is that even if a person doesn’t know that the way you are behaving is wrong it IS still wrong. Next He says not to put a stumbling block in the path of a blind man. A stumbling block is something that is done to intentionally trip somebody up. We should have no part of that! G_d then goes on to talk about how we should be about Justice for those around us – not self-serving but true justice! Wouldn’t that be a great day when the church becomes known for its justice and not its judgment? All of this leads up to verse 18 where G_d says, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself…”
When we start to understand what G_d is calling us to and who He is calling us to become we begin to understand how truly great this commandment really is. I pray that each of you would take the time to read Leviticus 19.9-18 and allow that to begin to shape in you what loving our neighbor is supposed to look like. So live a life of radical generosity, Godly character, personal integrity, and protection of the innocent…and you will live out the Greatest Commandment!