Deuteronomy’s rules for living form the heart of Jewish law. As we read them, understand that these commands are meant for the community as well as the individual. God envisions a particular future for all of us and shows us what it takes to realize that vision.
When families are in disarray, the whole community suffers. We know that on an individual basis honoring one’s parents doesn’t guarantee someone a lengthy life. As a pastor, I have conducted funerals for youth who honored their parents and lived out their love for Christ by serving others. I’ve also observed those who did not display a single drop of love to their family members or anyone else over the long course of their relationships. In reading verse 16, we need to lean into the big picture that it describes, the hope that comes when a community pursues respect for all. By our actions, by the important principles we live by, we create a thriving life with God.
God spells out how to love neighbors as we love ourselves. You shall not murder. Neither shall you commit adultery (vv. 17-18). The foundation underlying these commands is a particular love. How do we see the people in our lives? Do we view them as children of God, persons whom God loves? Or do we see them as objects for our gratification and potential problems who might get in our way?
In Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip, Peanuts, Linus famously says, “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.” We’ve heard that line attributed to many, from random strangers to Albert Einstein. I understand the universality of the sentiment. Some people always seem to be blessed with the wrong thing to say.
Nobody said following the commandments would be easy. That’s why they come with a relationship attached. We learn to trust and follow within God’s sustaining love.
How does God strengthen you to love your neighbor?
God, teach us that your commandments are all about growing in love. Amen.