9 Ways Leviticus Shows What it Means to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

9 Ways Leviticus Shows What it Means to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

9 Ways Leviticus Shows What it Means to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

As a teenager, I was often told, "You must love yourself before anyone else can love you." I never really understood what that meant but looking back, I can see that it was used with good intentions to mend a teenage girl's broken self-esteem. Is it not true, though, that deep down, even while suffering from low self-esteem, we still love ourselves?

Jesus tells the Pharisees that the greatest commandment is to: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," (Matthew 22:37). He is saying to make Him our priority - our focus. This is true love. But how often is our priority ourselves? Even when we're suffering from low self-esteem there is a form of self-love because our priority is thinking about ourselves.

Loving ourselves is not bad. We are God's creation, made in His image, and He expects us to love ourselves as such. God wants us to take care of our bodies, minds, and souls. He wants us to care enough about ourselves to fight for the sanctity of our lives. So when God says in verse 39, "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'" (Matthew 22:39), He means to love our neighbor with this kind of love, the kind of love He expects us to have for ourselves. However, we all know that there is a type of self-love that is sinful. Whenever we become focused on ourselves before God and others, we are loving ourselves out of sin. We become obsessed with ourselves, thinking about ourselves nonstop. This leads to using others for our gain, entitlement, and even narcissism.

In Matthew 22:38 when Jesus tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself," He is quoting Leviticus 19:18. This Old Testament passage (Leviticus 19:9-18) is where we find specific ways to obey God’s command.

Here are 9 ways Leviticus shows us what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves:

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1. Take care of others like you take care of yourself.

1. Take care of others like you take care of yourself.

"‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God,'" (Leviticus 19:9).

God tells us not to keep everything we earn for ourselves. First, we gather what we've earned, keeping what we need, but we should not go back through again and collect what we don't need for ourselves. Instead, we should leave some for the "poor and the foreigner." This is putting others' needs before your own wants.

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2. Be honest like you expect honesty from others.

2. Be honest like you expect honesty from others.

"‘Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another," (Leviticus 19:11).

Most of us are not ruthless thieves and blatant liars in a literal sense. However, how often do we try to steal someone else's praise, calling, or accomplishments? How often do we turn the attention back to ourselves? How often do we tell "innocent lies" to cover up something or make someone think well of us? How often do we inflate the truth? How often do we manipulate a situation to get what we want? 

Loving others is being a person of integrity. A person of integrity is not deceptive but is honest in all ways.

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3. Lead people to God like you hope others lead you.

3. Lead people to God like you hope others lead you.

"'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord," (Leviticus 19:12).

The way we talk about God helps lead others to Him. Sharing God's faithfulness is an act of love because it shows others God's character. When we misuse God's name or speak against Him, we're slandering His name. This does not give others the truth about God.

Linda Evans Shepherd talks about this in her article, "5 Ways Women Can Share Jesus Without Fear."

"Now is not the time to be shy or even ashamed of the truth we know. It’s the time to shout a warning, 'Watch out!' Not everyone will hear or even understand what we are saying. However, some will leap into a saving relationship with a God who loves them. For our warning is not to condemn, it’s to save. It’s to say, 'We love you! Be aware of the danger!'" she said.

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4. Give what is justly deserved like you want to be given to.

4. Give what is justly deserved like you want to be given to.

"Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight," (Leviticus 19:13).

When we love our neighbors, we don't rob them of what they deserve. This includes being ethical in business, but it also means giving others the credit and accolades they deserve. It means not being jealous and holding back praise. Love is giving others our best. It's celebrating them.

Lisa-Jo Baker talks about the value of choosing to encourage friends rather than compare lives in her article, "How to Avoid the Comparision Trap that Kills Friendships."

"The moment I start to feel that sinking feeling of dissatisfaction welling up in me, I know I need to message a friend, give her a call, or post a note telling her what I love about what she’s doing. There is power in speaking words of blessing and encouragement over someone else," she said.  

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5. Take care of those in need like you may one day need care.

5. Take care of those in need like you may one day need care.

“‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord,'" (Leviticus 19:14).

This verse has a two-fold message. The first is literal. How often do we get impatient with people who are disabled in some way? What about the elderly? Do we make life harder for them instead of easier? Love does not see people who are disabled as burdens. Love honors them and treats them with the same dignity as anyone else. Love works to make their lives easier, not harder.

This verse also applies to people who are deaf or blind to God's truth - people who are "simple" as the Bible sometimes words it. Our words and actions are a testimony to others. Sometimes we are called to love people who are struggling in a certain area or less mature in their faith by thinking of their needs before our own. Romans 14:13-23 explains this type of love further.

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6. Fight for justice like you would fight for your own justice.

6. Fight for justice like you would fight for your own justice.

“‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly,'" (Leviticus 19:15).

We have all been the weaker one in a situation, and there is solace when someone with more power or stature comes along to help you. The world is full of people who are marginalized and oppressed, but there are people right in our communities who suffer injustice. Love speaks up for these people. Love does not participate in talk that implies discrimination, oppression, or marginalization. A few groups to be aware of in your personal life are minorities, women, children, immigrants, refugees, the disabled, the poor, and the unborn. Next time there's an opportunity to speak up in godly justice for a person who is "poor" in some way, pray God gives you the courage to do so.

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7. Speak about others like you hope to be spoken of.

7. Speak about others like you hope to be spoken of.

“‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord,'" (Leviticus 19:16).

Gossip and slander. It's what I struggle with the most if I'm honest. And it's sneaky because I'll just be talking to a friend, and I find myself saying something so subtle yet slanderous. What I've learned is that once I say something, it's out there, and I can't get it back. It's in the hearer’s mind, and it's there to stay. This is something that God has often convicted me of. He made me realize how evil it is to speak slanderous words about someone without the person having an opportunity to respond to it.

Love edifies. Love builds up. Even if the gossip you want to talk about is true, it's often best to not say anything at all. Two questions I try to ask myself when wondering if I should talk about a situation or conflict with someone is: Does this person need to know for some reason? and Can this person help me in some way? This helps me decide if I need to talk about a situation at all.

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8. Confront others gently like you want to be confronted.

8. Confront others gently like you want to be confronted.

“‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt,'" (Leviticus 19:17).

Resentment and anger lead to hate. But what removes these feelings is dealing with the issue at hand, instead of allowing it to fester in your heart. In this verse, we see that there is a place for rebuke or confrontation when someone wrongs you. But no one likes to be confronted with hostility and accusations. Confrontation needs to be done gently, with compassion, in the same way God gently rebukes us.

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9. Forgive like you want to be forgiven.

9. Forgive like you want to be forgiven.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord," (Leviticus 19:18).

We all want to be forgiven when we're the ones who committed the wrongful act. But it's much harder to forgive when others do something wrong. Forgiveness is an act of love. It shows compassion and mercy for someone else's sin because we know how sinful we can also be. Forgiveness is not giving someone a pass to wrong you. It's not saying, "What you've done is okay." In verse 17 we saw that there is a place for rebuke when someone wrongs you. Leviticus 19:17-18 shows us how we can address wrongful acts against us while also forgiving them.

Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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