October 4, 2015: Can You Love God and Hate Your Neighbor?

Posted on : Oct 1st, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

As the people of God wandered through the wilderness on their journey to freedom, they learned some tough lessons. One of the hardest was “Can I love God and hate my neighbor?” In essence, it’s the same conversation we’re having today around immigration, capital punishment, and “religious freedom.”

The rationale of the “religious freedom” issue that drives me crazy is the blatant use of religion to justify discrimination. It’s like, “If I can’t get away with discriminating against people I disagree with or dislike, let me play the religion card and see if that will work. There are two huge problems with that. The first is, these people keep equating hate with religion. Those who practice hate in the name of God or justify it by religion are absolutely killing religion. Christianity has been through 30-40 years of violent culture wars in the name of righteousness and God. Judaism is having similar problems with some of the most orthodox Jews in Israel fighting more moderate and secular Jews. And extremists in Islam are perpetuating one of the most violent attacks on religion in all of history. None of this is good for religion; not any religion.

One of the hard lessons Israel learned in their journey to freedom is that God is a God of Justice and God calls, God requires us to be morally just and loving toward one another.

The Ten Commandments are given in Exodus 20. The First three are about our relationship with God, the other 7 are about our relationship with each other – the way we treat each other. Seven obviously wasn’t enough to get the message across because the next four chapters of Exodus (Ex. 21-24) are filled with examples of the moral imperative God places on us to be just and to love one another. These four chapters include the rules of fairness and justice for an indentured Hebrew worker, including the requirement to release the worker: “In the seventh year the indentured worker is to be freed without having to purchase his or her freedom.” They include penalties for violence inflicted against someone else accidentally and intentionally. They include theft of animals (livestock) and the consequences of such actions, stealing from a neighbor’s home, the imperative to “not mistreat or oppress foreigners, for you were once foreigners in Egypt,” not taking advantage of widows or orphans, loaning money to the poor without interest (Oh, show that one to Pay Day Lenders!) and on and on and on.

Why is this lesson so hard to learn? Why is it so hard to learn that we can’t love God without loving our neighbor? Yes, why is it? More on Sunday.




~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Exodus 22: 21-27

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.

If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.

(from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible)

Exodus 23: 1-13

Do not spread rumors.

Do not conspire with a corrupt person by offering false testimony. Do not be drawn into evil simply because the majority is doing it. If you are giving evidence in a lawsuit, don’t speak anything less than the complete truth, no matter what others think or say; to do otherwise is to subvert justice.

When you come upon an ox or donkey belonging to your adversary that has strayed – return it.

If you see the donkey of someone who hates you, and it is lying helpless beneath its load – come to its aid.

Do not deprive the poor of just treatment in their lawsuits.

Always distance yourself from any false charges, and do not execute the clear and innocent – I will hold the guilty accountable.

Do not accept bribes – bribery blinds the vision of officials, and twists the words of the just.

Do not oppress foreigners, for you know what it is to be foreigner – you were foreigners in Egypt.

You may sow your crops and reap them for six years, but in the seventh year let the land rest and lie untilled. In that year the land will provide food for the poor, and what they don’t take will go to the wild animals. Do the same with your vineyards and olive groves.

For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must not work. On that day the donkey and the ox are to rest as well, and so are your indentured workers and the foreigners who do your work.

Listen to every word I am telling you!
Invoke no other gods – their very names must not cross your lips.

(from the Inclusive Bible)



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