Loving Holiness - Lev. 19:2, 18; Matt. 5:43-44, 48

Our lectionary passages come together to present a theme that I’ve summed up as loving holiness, drawn from ideas that especially occur at the beginning and end of the passages from Leviticus and Matthew. Here are a flurry of points that blanket the landscape of how loving God’s holiness is, and why we should respond by loving holiness.

Point 1: Holiness is an imperative for God’s people. You must be holy! No holiness, no heaven. It might seem harsh, but this command is actually a kindness to you: the holiness God commands you to embody is what will enable you to survive when you enter His presence and see His glory.

Point 2: Holiness is a description of the character of God. This means that His command represents an invitation for us to share in His life! How kind are God’s commands!

Point 3: God’s holy character is revealed in His law. God tells us what holiness looks like, summarized in the 10 and the 2: the Ten Commandments, many of which appear in Lev. 19:1-18, and the two greatest commandments, the second of which appears in Lev. 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Point 4: We embody God’s holiness by living according to His law. You cannot break God’s law and still be holy. Holiness is not a mystery; it simply means doing what God says.

Point 5: God’s law commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Holiness is not only a vertical matter of our behavior before God, but a horizontal matter of love between us and our neighbors. When we don’t know exactly how to apply the law, we’re given this principle: love them the same way you would want them to love you.

Point 6: God’s holiness is revealed in His love for His neighbor. God isn’t asking us to be holier than He is. God has always loved His neighbor as Himself, eternally among the persons of the Trinity, and then in the love He shows His creation. So as you think about how you should love your neighbor, think about how you have been loved by God.

Point 7: Living a holy life according to the law (treating your neighbor lawfully) is how you love your neighbor as yourself. Many people separate love and law so that the command to love can mean whatever they want it to mean. But God says that treating your neighbor lawfully is how you love him.

Point 8: Perfect holiness goes beyond justice. In Matthew 5, Jesus quotes a common proverb, half of which comes from Leviticus and half of which doesn’t show up anywhere in the OT. The OT never commanded us to hate our enemies, but it didn’t clearly teach us to love them, either. But Jesus does, and by telling us to love our enemies, He takes holiness beyond justice.

Point 9: Gospel love reveals more of God’s character than the law. In v. 48, Jesus transposes the formula of Lev. 19:2 – “Be holy, for I am Holy”, into a new key: “Be perfect, for your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Leviticus strongly connected holiness and loving your neighbor by obeying the law, but Matthew’s focus is on the perfection or completion of holiness found in showing love to your enemies.

Point 10: God’s perfection is revealed in His love for His enemies. We see this perfection of holiness in Jesus Christ, who loved us so much that while we were still sinners, He died for us. The cross teaches us something more about holiness than the law did. Mercy reveals the complete perfection of God’s holy love.

Point 11: Jesus commands you not just to love your neighbor, but also to love your enemies. It is so much easier to do justice to our neighbor than it is to love our enemies! But Jesus’ command is not a burden for you: it is an invitation to enjoy God’s life.

Point 12: Loving your enemies means not only not resisting the one who is evil, but actively seeking their good, especially through prayer. You may not join them in doing evil, but you can heap a blessing on top of their evil actions.

Point 13: Loving your enemies embodies God’s perfection; it is more than merely human. Insisting on justice for your enemies keeps you from being unholy, but it does not enter into the fullness of holiness, because even pagans appreciate justice. Loving your enemies shows the character of God more clearly and more fully than anything else.

Posted on Thursday, February 23, 2017 by CJ Bowen