Readings for February 23, 2020
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Without context, the Ten Commandments can seem daunting, if not overtly dictatorial, with all the “Thou Shalls” and demanding “Thou Shalt Nots.” They are, after all, commands and not merely a framework for a deep discussion on the meaning of life. Noting what is obvious, however, the Ten Commandments are neither the beginning nor the end of the unfolding story of our return to God after having fallen to sin. Rather, they are the foundation of the story, building blocks beset by a merciful God wanting us to join Him in His Kingdom.
In the full text of our salvation history, then, it becomes more and more clear that the Commandments are grouped into areas of our lives that will help us to be holy, or, to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The first three Commandments establish God as holy and alone worthy of our praise. The fourth Commandment stands as the bridge between love for God and love for each other, establishing the family unit as the model of the Trinity, a shared bond of obedient love, honor, and faithfulness. The remaining six complete the filial model of love and extend it out to all of God’s created beings—our neighbors.
This calling to filial love of neighbor is both an acknowledgment of perfect creation by God and our commission to live in the holiness that perfection demands. This Sunday’s readings take the Commandments and plop them into a lesson on how we are meant to live our lives in holiness. Loving neighbor, carrying no hatred toward our brother or sister, and praying for our enemies are the principles that make up our instruction manual for living by God’s will.
I have written and said many times that there are three simple rules: First, love God. Second, love others. Third, for anything else, refer to numbers one and two. Simply stated, we are to live in a manner that reflects and returns God’s love for us. Which isn’t to say that life is, or should be, a continual hug-fest. Loving those that have offended or harmed us is incredibly difficult, even seemingly impossible. But our call to holiness is a call to perfection and there is nothing easy about striving for perfection.
Personally, I fail at this every day. But after I fail, I hope and pray for God’s unending mercy, recall that I must rely solely on Him, and seek His help through prayer. And then I try again. For God, in His holiness, has commanded this filial love for me to carry out. And in honor and obedience, and with his unfailing help, that is what I will continue to strive to do.
O Lord my God, You have given me the instructions to live a life of holiness, shining Your light on the path that leads to You. May I, with Your help, follow that path. May all I do reflect Your love for me and my love for others. Amen