1.18.2012

The Lesson of Leviticus: Love the Law, for the Lord is Life


In my morning Bible reading time, I find myself in that most scintillating Old Testament book, Leviticus. I admit there are passages there that are a little dry: the instructions regarding skin infections in Chapter 13 come to mind. Nevertheless, studying this book never ceases to surprise me with profound insight and practical counsel.

Christians, or religious people in general, are often accused of simply being rule-followers, which is perceived as restricting and leading to self-righteousness. But the nature of the laws set forth in Leviticus point to far better reasons from God and outcomes for man. Reading this book, you get that God cares about our bodily purity and the sanctity of our relationships with one another. He instructs His people to leave the corners of their fields and the fallen fruit of their vineyards, so that the poor among them will have provision. In the famous verse, Leviticus 19:18, which Jesus quoted when telling the rich young ruler how to obtain eternal life - "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" - that exhortation is contrasted with taking vengeance and bearing a grudge, indicating the high value God places on reconciliation and forgiveness. Later in the same chapter, there is a far less famous use of that phrase, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself," and there its context is taking care of the non-natives among them, since God's people were also once foreigners in a new land.

In other words, far from sucking the life out of our lives, God's commands, even the ones in Leviticus, are meant to be life-giving. For life which deemphasizes harmony among men, charity towards those in need, and fairness for strangers in your midst, that is not as rich or right a life. You read it first in the book of Leviticus.

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