Love is the law

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18

You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.

You know, I don’t usually think of love when I think of Leviticus, but yes, this is part of the Ten Commandments. This, too, is law. Though I believe I’m a child of the universe and, as such, subject mostly to grace, I can still get behind laws like these. Love first, rebuke second and remember to do it with love. Don’t try to get your own back; God’s not into that.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This one’s interesting. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I read the implication here as needing to love yourself in order to love your neighbor. If you don’t love yourself, it’s that much harder to love others. What’s more, it looks like God wants you to love yourself. Otherwise, wouldn’t Moses only have heard “Love your neighbor”?

Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

This is God’s softer side. “The Lord is kind and merciful. […] Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.” Faith isn’t only about having a set of rules to guide you through your life. For those who need them, rules are there to follow, but there are concepts at the heart of those rules, and if we get caught up in the letter of the law instead of living by those concepts, we’ve failed pretty badly. “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” We could do worse than to live that way.

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Even Paul is in on this lovefest, as much as he ever is. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” More evidence that we’re supposed to be kind, not just to others, but to ourselves. We are children of God, manifestations of something amazing, whatever you call it. Who are we to decide it deserves to be destroyed?

“If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise.” Never forget that there’s always room to learn and grow. It’s a humbling thought, isn’t it? This is why I still reach out to my fellow writers when I’m working on a piece, and why I have at least two editors in mind for when I finish The Book. Almost two decades of writing and I’m nowhere near an expert. I know more than a lot of people do, and I’m happy to offer what I know in order for them to grow, too, but I know I can always learn more. No matter how good I think I am, there’s always someone better.

Matthew 5:38-48

Ten verses that rocked the world, folks.

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.

It’s Gandhi and it’s King.

When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

It’s the unexpected reaction that breaks the cycle of violence and destruction. (Because we are children of the universe, all of us holy, and if the universe means for something to be destroyed, let it provide the means. Let it do the destroying.)

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? …And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?

We all have to live in this world. What reality we inhabit is up to us. We can construct a narrow reality, in which we only think well of those who are just like us, or we can broaden our horizons. It’s so easy to reach out to someone who’s already on our side. It’s harder to look at someone who disagrees with you on something that means a lot to you and say, “You’re okay.” Doing what’s easy is, well, easy. Try doing what’s right. Try doing what’s hard. If you think solidly, like stone, learn to bend. If you bend already, learn to flow. Bonus? What bends doesn’t break under pressure. What flows can pass over, under, around, and through.

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