Wednesday, April 22, 2020

p17 The Law of Love in Leviticus demands rebukes

 "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." (suffer sin?) (Lev 19:17, KJV)

The King James Bible is full of errors and passages like the above, that are simply incomprehensible. This morning I tried to find out what "suffer sin" could possibly mean. This took me down the rabbit hole that is BibleHub. Here is what I found:

If you Google any bible passage, you get Bible Hub, and it gives you all the translations and cross references. Routine, I know, you do it all the time, but I just looked up "lev 19:17," and it came as a revelation to me.

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him." (ESV)

or, in the NIV version,

"Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt."

We are not told just to love our neighbour by the law of love, we are specially instructed by that law to rebuke them privately. In the cross references, it points to this addition in the Christian law of love,

"If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." (Matt 18:15)

Love is not love if it does not set a process of admonition, correction, forgiveness and reconciliation going. If you don't do that, hatred will start to fester and may turn into murder; it would not be the first time.

"And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad, because he hated Amnon for disgracing his sister Tamar." (2 Samuel 13:22)

Amazing! Silence is like darkness, where mold like a contagion grows. Love demands the reverse, a direct, frank, ongoing dialog about how to tread the path of right and wrong. Neglect that and love's seedling grows into a weed. "Open rebuke is better than secret love…" (Proverbs 27:5,6) Another proverb supplements this, saying that if your friend, brother or neighbour is wise, they will not take it amiss, they will love you for it all the more.

"Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee." (9:8)

Love has to come out of this wisdom, not out of facile admiration. Constructive feedback is what makes love into light, rather than a poison.

"If anyone claims to be in the light but hates his brother, he is still in the darkness." (1 John 2:9)

Hatred is darkness, love is light, and we use light to see reality while the heat from light keeps us alive. Love's vision comes only out of this close dialectic. If it does not, love grows amiss, like a cancer.

"But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness. He does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1 John 2:11)

Hatred and ill will build up like a poison, and from that, any friendly behavior becomes hypocritical. Like a heartworm, lies enter into the heart and kill everything,

"He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him." (Proverbs 26:24-26)

If an acquaintance does not make you better, they don't love you and they will never be worthy of being called a friend, much less a beloved. I am reminded of the song, "I don't know what love is. I want you to show me." No, the blind cannot lead the blind. It is quite the reverse, neither of us knows how to love, but we will find out only by working it out in the mutual correction society that is friendship. There are many kinds of friendship, but all must be part of a mutual search for betterment or perfection.

This critical process applies for God, the God of love, more than anything. That is why I feel uncomfortable when people talk about unconditional love. Unconditional love is great for babies, but not for responsible adults. And especially not for the highest love, the love of God. God loves us infinitely, but it would be a very paltry love if that were as far as it went.

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent." (Rev 3:19, NIV)

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