16 Do not go around slandering your people. Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed; I am the Lord. 17 You must not hate your fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your fellow Israelite strongly, so you don’t become responsible for his sin. 18 You must not take revenge nor hold a grudge against any of your people; instead, you must love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
While first reading this scripture from Leviticus, I could not help but think of close friends and family. Growing up in my neighborhood, we knew most people and were involved in the community. Maybe I think of their faces right now because so many of them have gone on to their eternal homes. Or maybe this passage resonates because I came from a big family myself.
As great as family is, no one can tear you down quicker than your loved ones. There’s nothing like a sibling who pronounces, “You can’t…” (sing, read, hit that ball or fill-in-the blank). Often the words can cut deep. As for me, with me brothers and sisters, I always knew how to hit below the belt (and so did they). Perhaps as kids, we acted in anger or frustration. Revenge was easy to seek.
When we were attentive to the adults in the room, we learned to think before we spoke and to apologize. We may have complained or excused our behaviors, but somewhere along the way, we learned the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). Yet especially today, we can all think of people who, even as adults, continue to say awful things to others and never abide by these divine rules, shared first in Leviticus. We all know people whose words slander, harm and hit below the belt! We all know adults who continue to act out, harming others.
So as Christians, let’s at least agree to “do no harm.” Let’s remember that the rules came from somewhere first and that Jesus referenced them not only in words but also actions. Whether we learned the rules as kids, though biblical teachings, or through harder means, we know we need to turn away from hurt, slander and vengeance at all costs! We know this from the rules seen in Leviticus and from Jesus’ greatest commandment: Matthew 22:37, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
In moments of anger or frustration, it may be easy to be unkind or to seek revenge with our words or deeds. Then we think of Jesus. He could have taken revenge, but never did. We remember all the imperfect ways we behave toward others. When is a time that you lost your temper or spoke or acted unkindly toward another? Perhaps you have been wronged and it is hard to let go of this hurt. We are humans and it happens. We are fortunate that God accepts and forgives us anyway. Say a prayer of forgiveness, asking God to forgive any hurts that you may have caused.
Prayer: Creator God, thank you for loving me just as I am. I ask for forgiveness for the times when I have hurt others. Help me to seek only love, even when I am hurt. Like Jesus, help me to always treat others with kindness and love in all that I do. Amen.