Monday, September 12, 2011

Loving Your Neighor You Don't Even Know

The law of God is not merely a code of conduct "out there" to which the people of God must conform. It is most fundamentally a re:flection, a revelation of the character of God. In light of that, it's a good habit to ask of any command in the Bible (even, or especially, with Old Testament commands that may no longer apply to us because they were specific to the nation of Israel at a point in The Story when the people of God lived in a national theocracy), "What does this command say about the nature of God?" Or, "What kind of God commands this of us?"

Lately, I've been reading Deuteronomy. There have been several commands that have functioned like windows to see the character of God more clearly. Here's one:
Deuteronomy 22:1 "You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2 And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3 And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother's, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4 You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again. (ESV, emphasis added)
A few things stick out to me here.
  1. Indifference is prohibited in God's kingdom (v1, 3, 4). "It's not my problem!" is out of step with the character of God and his kingdom.
  2. An Israelite did not even need to know his neighbor for his neighbor to be his "brother." In our God's government, the call to love is not contingent on the nature of the relationship with the neighbor in question.
  3. An Israelite did not even need to know his neighbor to be able to love his neighbor. In our God's kingdom, the "finders, keepers" is bunk. Love trumps selfish gain, or even convenience, every time.
Don't you want this God's kingdom to come?! His will to be done? He's so good!

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