Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.'”
Jesus was spot-on when He said that this, along with the command to love God, (Deuteronomy 6:5) summed up “all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:40) The various specific things listed in the verses preceding this one help us recognize just what this should look like, because we can be remarkably dense at times. We are forever saying and doing things to other people that we would not be happy if they were said or done to us. Legalism kicks in when we make rules for the sake of the rules, instead of for the benefit of those to whom they apply. Sadly, that is the case for quite a percentage of formal laws, as well as school rules and the like. I have long said that such rules are simply training in ignoring rules, and that has an actively negative effect on individuals and society as a whole. Jesus restated this principle famously in what is called the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, stated a little more compactly in Luke 6:31) We need to be careful about this, however, because every individual is different, and your neighbor might not like what you would enjoy. As I tell people in marriage counseling, we need to care enough about each other to find out what would please/benefit each other, and then do that, rather than making ourselves the standard that everyone else should meet. Some people try to dismiss the Bible as “ancient mythology,” when nothing could be further from the truth. Human nature certainly hasn’t changed in 4000 years, however much society, not to mention technology, has changed. God is still Lord, and He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
This certainly applies to me. I can be as self-centered as the next guy, even though I frequently point out to others that being self-centered never leads to genuine happiness. I am quite the expert at thinking that I’m the expert! I need to have the humility to know that God’s smart and I’m not. He had to point that out to me explicitly, and it was very liberating when I grasped it. I need to love myself, and thus my neighbor, enough to know that we are all works in progress, and keep moving closer to God. Even Paul was very clear that he hadn’t “arrived,” (Philippians 3:12-14) and we need to be encouraging one another to keep growing. (Hebrews 10:15 and several others) As a pastor I have to be very careful that even as I seek to set a good example, I must not come across as holier-than-thou. I know I don’t like someone to have a superior attitude toward me, and I must not be that way toward others, however much I feel they might be in the wrong.
Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s certainly practical! I have a lot to do each day this week, interacting with many different people. I ask You to help me love each of them indeed with Your love, just as I want to be loved, so that the fragrance of Christ may go out to all those around, drawing them to You for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!