Monday, December 7, 2009

12/7/09 Leviticus 19:11-18 Loving Neighbor

(Justin Pepper Toy Drive last year- Toys were given to Thornwell Home for Children, Newberry Boys Farm, Christgate, Sistercare and more- in Memory of Justin Pepper who gave toys to Thornwell on his birthday- Just was 11 when he died a little over two years ago).

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/23- Leviticus 19:11-18

11 " 'Do not steal. " 'Do not lie. " 'Do not deceive one another. 12 " 'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. 13 " 'Do not defraud your neighbors or rob them. " 'Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. 14 " 'Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD. 15 " 'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. 16 " 'Do not go about spreading slander among your people. " 'Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the LORD. 17 " 'Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Calvin abridged: 18- “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our mental obligation to our neighbor, which could easily take many pages, is summed up on one sentence here. We are not only inclined to love ourselves more than we should, but al our energy is given toward this. Self love is the blinding parent of all iniquities. When we are focused on loving ourselves we forget and neglect our brothers and sisters. God, in order to turn us away from self-love has given us a substitution for ourselves- our neighbors, whom we are to love no less than ourselves. Paul points out love does not seek its own (1 Cor. 13:5). Our neighbors are not only those with whom we have a connection, but all are neighbors without exception. The whole human race forms one body and we are all members- bound together by mutual ties; Even those most alienated from us, should be cherished and aided even as our own flesh- this was illustrated by the Good Samaritan who teaches us to care even for sojourners and strangers (Lk. 10:30).

Thoughts: This passage in Leviticus is almost another second table of the law (like the last five of the ten commandments) that focuses on our relationship with others. These are laws of the kingdom that teach us how to act and distinguish ourselves from those not in the kingdom. It adds some things- defrauding neighbors; holding back wages earned; caring for the handicapped; being fair to both poor and rich; rebuking your neighbor- so that you will not share in their guilt. In a troubled time, in which so many are not walking in God’s way (and don’t care about the way of the Lord), it is important for Christians to stay true to their God and themselves. One of the great Christian phenomena of the last couple of decades is the movement to build new houses or renovate houses for the needy- most of whom the builders do not know. Since 1976 Habitat for Humanity has built 350,000 homes in the name of our Lord for our neighbors. This is new housing for 1.75 million people. Our church works with GOoDWorks annually to renovate homes, and will send youth on a mission trip to Asheville with Re-creation to work on home renovations over Spring Break (our mission money helps both causes). Homes are a concrete, visible memorial to Christians loving their neighbors- and fulfilling the law above in a positive way. The Justin Pepper Toy Drive and our Giving Tree, and Operation Christmas Child are also concrete ways we help children we do not know at Christmas. But loving neighbors is accomplished often in the little every day things of service and kindness.

Prayer: Help us, O God, to see your image in our family members, friends, those who live beside us, and even in strangers. Help us to respect and even love people because you have made them and your image is in them.

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