Day 16: May 18, 2018: “Holiness is love done well”
Romans 10:9-10: For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor.” In its original context in Leviticus 19, the command “love your neighbor as yourself” is very much focused on this truth. In fact, “the second greatest commandment” comes in that section of Leviticus as the culmination of a series of “do not” instructions for neighbor-to-neighbor relationships. Some examples are
- You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. [Lev. 19:11]
- You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. [Lev. 19:13]
- You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind… [Lev. 19:14]
- You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people… [Lev. 19:16]
- You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people… [Lev. 19:18]
Stealing, lying, oppressing, cursing, slandering, taking vengeance… these are not the ways of love. Love does not harm another person as these actions do.
This truth about love makes it all that much more difficult for us to face the fact that we do, at times, bring harm to the people we claim to love. Sometimes we do lie and injure trust. Sometimes we do curse or slander and diminish someone’s sense of dignity and self-worth. Sometimes we do hold grudges and look for ways to take revenge.
How can we turn from these harmful ways? We can draw nearer and nearer to God. As we seek God, God will transform us to be like himself.
The overriding emphasis of Leviticus is the call for God’s people to share in God’s holiness. Leviticus 19:2: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” In a recent book New Testament scholar Scot McKnight explains the meaning of holiness:
“The word holiness means to be in God’s presence as one “devoted to God,” and because of devotion to God it also means “to be separated from the world.” This dual meaning strikes the right biblical balance. God is holy. To be with God, to be devoted to God, and to walk with God mean that the companion of God is separate from the world. Devotion to God entails the rejection of devotion to the world. But rejecting the world is not the primary emphasis. Holiness is first and foremost devotion to God.”
Since holiness is first and foremost devotion to God, it follows that the more we draw near to God and allow his Holy Spirit to work in us, the more we will reject the ungodly ways of deceit, theft, slander, grudge-holding, and the rest. Therefore, to grow in holiness (devotion to God) is also to grow in love, which does not harm its neighbor. McKnight writes:
“Here’s another way to say it: anything that is not loving—of God and of others and of self and of all God’s creation—is unholy. But every act of loving God, others, self, or creation is holiness. Love is not an alternative to holiness. Holiness becomes visible when we love God, others, self, and creation. Holiness, I like to say, is love done well.”
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer will help you get started: “Lord God, I want to draw near to you. I want to be completely like you. I want to love others as you love me. Help me to be kind as you are kind, truthful as you are truthful, patient as you are patient, and forgiving as you are forgiving. Help me to walk justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you, my God. Lord, I forsake the ungodly ways in which I sometimes harm other people. Please change me by your Spirit, that I will love my neighbor as I love myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”