10 March 2014

Leviticus 19:11-18

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself." (v. 18)


Long before Jesus spent time in the wilderness the Israelite nation spent 40 long years there and the book of Leviticus is set in that period. Encamped at Mount Sinai, how were the Israelites to order their lives and keep themselves pure and holy? The regulations and legislation of Leviticus sought to provide the necessary framework.

Chapter 19 lies at the heart of Leviticus, defining and inspiring holy behaviour. "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:1) locates the source and nature of holiness and identifies it as a hallmark of being close to God. "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" is perhaps the most famous embodiment of what a holy lifestyle entails.

The levitical understanding of holiness impacts on the whole of life with very practical implications for how society is ordered. It was about ritual cleanliness but it was also about justice, fairness, community and health. The notion that holiness influences all aspects of our behaviour has its roots here in the regulations of Leviticus.

Being separated or 'set apart' from what is corrupt or unclean is not to remove oneself from the responsibilities of everyday life. Rather, through drawing us closer to God it enables us to be more like God; more generous, more just, more whole - more committed to the well-being of others. There is no separation here between religious observance and ethical behaviour - they are two sides of the same coin.

In Jesus Christ, God was immersed fully in human life and the life of the world, whilst remaining holy. If we are to be holy in this way we too must be fully engaged with our world and the challenges it faces, whilst nurturing, embodying and reflecting the nature of God as revealed in Christ.

To Ponder

  • Holiness is not something limited to a particular religious class - it is the calling of all who would call themselves Christian. Where is the holiness in your life and lifestyle?
  • As you journey through Lent consider how your religious observance and ethical behaviour might be better integrated.

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.