“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
In Matthew 22:36-39, a lawyer challenges Jesus asking him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” ”Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
The first verse Jesus quotes is from Deuteronomy 6:5, but the second is from Leviticus. For Jesus, to love your neighbor as yourself meant Leviticus 19: 9–18: “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God. Do not steal. Do not deceive or cheat one another.D o not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the Lord. “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay. Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord. Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly. Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the Lord. Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
For Jesus, speaking to Jews shaped by the Torah, this is what loving your neighbor looked like. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, there is a continuity, consistency, and concern for the poor, the marginalized, and love for one another. One theme we see throughout the Old Testament is a command to love your neighbor as yourself that is still relevant to our world today. Can you imagine what our city, state, country and world would be like if people loved each other this way?
- Do you think it is possible to live out the Leviticus 19: 9–18 passage? Why or why not?
- What’s one change you can make in your life to put more love into action?