Love your neighbor as yourself

Leviticus 19-18The Verse of the Day for June 26, 2015 is found in Leviticus 18:19 (NLT):

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch, literally means The Book of the Law and indicates how the Children of Israel should conduct their lives in relationship to God, to one another and to the wider community. The phrase “I am the Lord” serves as a reminder of the source of the pronouncements that are made throughout the Book of the Law. In chapter 19 the phrase is used not only to punctuate verse 19, but the expression is the final phrase of fourteen additional verses.

The familiar phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” is part of the Ten Commandments, being part of the opening relationship establish in the Decalogue, whereby Israel was commanded to love God first and foremost and then to love others to the same degree as they love themselves.

When Jesus Christ is confronted by the Pharisees in Matthew 22:36-40, they conspired to trap him with a question:

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

In a familiar account in Luke 10, the Lord Jesus, responds to a similar situation whereby the rich, younger ruler asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. He answers his own question when Jesus Christ asks, “What does the Law say?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

When Jesus told the young man to “Do this and live,” the man seeking to justify himself, asked, “Who is my neighbor?” That question provides the introduction to one of the most familiar parables of the Gospel, “The parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

When I think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I recall teaching in a summer program more than a dozen years ago where we explained the parable and connected it to the virtue of compassion and taught the children this song:

I Want to Touch the World with Compassion

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Whatever I give to others, it shall be given back to me,

Not just the same but to an even greater degree.

Lord, help me to be merciful.

May I see with the eyes of Jesus.

Lord, I want to walk in the steps of Jesus

And always be loving and kind.

May I reach out my hand to others,

To heal broken hearts and give sight to the blind.

I want to touch the world with compassion.

I want to do whatever I can.

I want to be like the Good Samaritan.

I want to touch the world with compassion.

I want to do whatever I can.

I want to be like the Good Samaritan.

I want to touch the world with compassion.

Lord, help me touch the world with compassion.

Even more amazingly, today, June 26, is National Forgiveness Day, a day set aside to forgive and to be forgiven. In light of the unfolding circumstances surrounding the response to the brutal slayings of the nine men and women at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, the Verse of the Day is certainly well-suited.

Click here to read about the response in Charleston as a prelude to National Forgiveness Day.

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