Leviticus 19:17-18

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 24 April 2021


Love Your Neighbor

17 'You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart; you shall surely reprove your neighbor, but you shall not bear a sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI." (Leviticus 19:17-18 BR) 

See exegetical notes on this passage here.

Yeshua called the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:31). It may also be the second hardest. The word for neighbor may indicate nearness in proximity or circumstance, or any member of the community. The Hebrew verb for love has a range of intensity from fondness to affection to devotion. However, the Jewish rabbis who translated the Septuagint used the Greek verb that means a sacrificial devotion for the sake of another. This kind of love is not based on emotion, but is a decision of the will.

Yeshua added the expectation to "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44), but his command actually has precedence in the Torah. Exodus 23:4-5 says,

"If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him." (NASB)

You may have heard the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself interpreted as a justification for self-love. However, the object of the verb, "love" is the neighbor, not yourself. Indeed there is no verb in the command directing love toward self. The word "as" is an adverb that focuses on the idea of a pattern or model. In other words, "as" presumes you already love yourself. Sha'ul said, "No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it" (Ephesians 5:29 NIV). We spend a considerable amount of time taking care of our bodies. That is self-love.

The phrase "as yourself" thus implies many practical actions that would benefit the neighbor. The command is not limited to actions you would do for yourself or things you would want done for yourself. The question to ask is, "what does the neighbor need?" and then "How can I serve that need?"

In verses 11 to 16 ADONAI expounds on the meaning of the commandment by prohibiting actions harmful to the neighbor. Moreover, He commands that if your neighbor commits a sin of which you have knowledge you are to go directly to him and rebuke him. When I served in a Christian peacemaking ministry I handled many calls from persons wanting to file a lawsuit against an individual or company for some complaint and most of the time they had not even attempted to resolve the matter by direct contact.

Yeshua repeated this command to his disciples, "If your brother sins, rebuke him;" and then added "if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3). It is not easy to confront someone. Biblical confrontation is based on a factual story, not a repetition of assumptions and hearsay (i.e., gossip). And, since resentment is a stumbling block to reconciliation, you cannot go unless you are willing to forgive. Therein lies a problem, because the flesh does not want to forgive. C.S. Lewis once said, "Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive" (Mere Christianity).

The expectation of forgiveness is implied in the declaration, "I AM ADONAI," which occurs 16 times in Chapter 19 after specific commandments. The divine exclamation emphasizes not only the divine expectation but implies divine accountability for disobedience. Yeshua reiterated this point when he said, "If you do not forgive others neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:15 TLV).

Resentment not only risks divine displeasure, but it is also bad for your health. Dr. James Stringham, a Christian psychiatrist and medical missionary to India documented the physical effects of resentment. In an article published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (1969) Dr. Stringham chronicled the results of many clinical studies which linked resentment to hypertension, coronary disorders, stomach ulcers, psychosomatic pain, arthritis and rheumatic conditions, alcoholism and accidents. Stringham states forthrightly in his article that "the human personality is so constituted that it is unable to contain, over prolonged periods of time, hatred, bitterness or resentment and remain healthy."

The chances are very good that some of those within the sound of my voice are holding on to resentment or even hatred toward someone who caused great personal hurt. If you ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you He will remind you of these long standing feelings. Emotional wounds may have happened years ago. They may go back to your childhood, your school years or your employment. The person who caused the hurt may be no longer living. As you examine these memories ask yourself, "Why am I still angry" (Psalm 4:4).

If you are carrying the burden of resentment, God can free you from that burden. Ask God to forgive your unforgiveness and confess your willingness for God to change your heart. He will help you. And, if necessary, seek godly counsel to share the burden and receive encouragement toward your goal of full deliverance.

Barukh Hashem.

Copyright 2021 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.