“It’s a new year and I’m leaving some people in the old one.” “It’s time to write some people out of your story.” “I’m cleaning out my Facebook friends list.” These days it is seen as mature, healthy, and progressive to distance ourselves from people. So-called “toxic” individuals, old friends who did us wrong, even people we barely know. Loving quickly, persistently, or hard is not very popular. Was it always this way or did something change over the years?
It might have always been this way. You’d think that the Israelites, living in a close, intimate community, would have little trouble loving each other the way they should. They had all been through the same trials of slavery! They all knew each other! They were all practically related! Yet in this chapter God essentially had to instruct the Israelites on how to love each other in the most basic of ways.
First, God told the Israelites how to love each other’s property. Next, He taught them how to love each other’s person. Were incidents of theft and cruelty breaking out in the Israelite community? Or were these rules guidelines ahead of future issues? Either way, God’s heart was clear: love went farther than mushy feelings and kind words. Did God’s people feel the same way?
The Treasures Within:
It’s Not a Good Time
Would you prefer the justice system set up under God for the Israelites or our justice system today? Maybe you’d like to mix and match a little, given the laws presented in Exodus 22. The theft and property loss laws God gave required double or greater payment to the owner of whatever was lost. Obviously, a thief deserves to repay heartily, but even those who accidentally cause damage to or lose their neighbor’s property (verses 5, 6, 14) are required to go above and beyond to make things right. Even the victims of property damage or loss may sometimes have to bite their tongue and accept their lot (verses 11, 13, 15). It takes a lot of love and forgiveness for your fellow man to accept and follow these laws without grumbling.
Maybe you’re thinking that those laws are only fair, and all you need to abide by them is a love of justice. Well, even assuming that nary an Israelite would even be tempted by the thought of suing for their own benefit, the laws that followed turned the love dial up even more. God called His people to love and care for foreigners, widows, orphans, and people living in poverty. Even when it seems perfectly fair to charge a poor person something as basic and necessary as interest, God asks His people to abandon their ideas about the way things should be and show mercy instead. These laws were difficult to swallow.
The thing is, it is easy to love people who don’t hurt us or who don’t ask anything of us or who will give us something in return. But when we have to eat a loss, or take a risk, or put ourselves at a disadvantage in order to help someone else out? It burns. It’s no fun. It would all be so much nicer to love when it is convenient, but God asks more of us. He asks more of those who claim to follow Him and believe in Him. The love we are supposed to hold in our hearts is uncommon, supernatural, and extraordinary. It is love that goes against expectations, fairness, and even our own desires. The question is, do we have that love inside of us? If not, what are we willing to do to get it?
God’s Message To Us:
“There is a kind of Love you have not yet laid eyes on.” Love is such a common, easy word to say. I love food. You love Ryan Gosling. Everybody loves Raymond. But do I love my homeless neighbor enough to give them my Thanksgiving meal? Do you love that one Facebook friend, coworker, or church member enough to spend your day off with them when they need a friend? Do we love our brothers and sisters who are immigrants, on welfare, or fighting off disease enough to heap financial and material blessings on them? Are we prepared to sacrifice our time, our money, our comfort, and even all that’s fair and just in the world for any one of God’s children? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘no’, then we still have a thing or two to learn about love from the God who is Love. His unpopular, inconvenient, unexpected love is indeed a rarity on this earth, but it is not impossible. It exists. Let’s do ourselves and each other a favor and ask God to give us that kind of love today.
What do you think? Who is God calling you to love radically? What else does God want you to learn from this chapter of the Bible?
There Are Always Questions:
- In the very beginning of the chapter, God explains to the Israelites how they should deal with thieves and intruders. Someone who breaks in at night is apparently someone who can be fought with all aggression, because if they die, you won’t be guilty. But if the same thief breaks in during the daytime and in self-defense you do kill them, you will be guilty of murder (verses 2-3). What is it about daytime that lessens the threat? Wouldn’t you still fear for your life? Shouldn’t you still be able to defend it at all costs?