Have you ever been forced to realize that something you did in the past, that you thought was fine, was actually really mean?
One time a friend told me that I used to regularly hurt her feelings when I was younger. I would go around calling people “heathens” for eating meat and dairy, because I thought it was wrong to eat meat. Even worse, I thought I was helping people out.
When my friend told me the truth, I couldn’t even immediately apologize. When confronted this way, one part of your brain begins to justify yourself and explain it away, claiming it wasn’t really your fault. The other part just fills with shame and guilt.
Which side do you listen to? Which side should you listen to?
One thing is for sure – if we actually listened to God, He would make sure that we wouldn’t have to feel that way ever again. There are a lot of different kinds of laws in Deuteronomy 22, but a couple of them teach us how to treat each other.
For example, one law explains what to do when you come across someone else’s property. No finders-keepers here. Not even “out of sight, out of mind” will work. Instead, God asks His people to take care of what belongs to someone else. Make sure it’s safe. Keep it for them, until they can claim it again (verses 1-4).
Another law reminds the Israelites to build their houses safely, so no one can injure themselves on their property. Yet another law asks the Israelites to avoid animal cruelty even when they come across animals that can be used for food (verses 6-8).
They’re simple laws, brief laws, but these laws are a big deal. They’re reminders, commands to go out of your way to care for other creatures. They’re laws that go beyond the bare minimum of decency and cross the line into genuine love and kindness.
These laws, and others like them, are game changers for two reasons.
One, because they shift our focus. Too often when we think of Christianity we start looking inward. Am I a good person? Is my heart right? Am I too much like the world? The laws in Deuteronomy 22 make it plain that followers of Jesus are supposed to think about more than just themselves. We’re supposed to make a consistent effort to actively love and serve everyone around us.
Which leads us to the second reason these laws are game changers: we don’t follow them.
In fact, Christians are notorious for doing the exact opposite.
Instead of looking for ways to love someone, we look for ways to judge them and outcast them.
Instead of acknowledging someone’s hardships, we insist that their problems are their own fault and things would be different if they were more like us.
Instead of alleviating the real suffering that real people are going through, we scream about abortion and the LGBTQ+ community.
Instead of sacrificing the littlest bit of our own time, money, or pride for someone else, we reinforce our own beliefs with haughty sermons and social media posts.
Instead of telling the world about true Love, we waste all our time trying to shun the world.
We imagine ourselves persecuted. We fantasize about the day we’ll finally be vindicated, the day everyone else will see that we were right and they were wrong. We pat ourselves on the back for “standing up”. We sigh contentedly in our echo chambers, thoroughly convinced of our own correctness, our own goodness.
But one day we’ll be forced to look back and realize that we were wrong. What we thought was righteousness was actually pride. What we thought was honesty was actually bigotry. What we thought was the law of God was actually the law of men.
What we thought was good was actually evil.
What are we going to do about it?
“Don’t ignore it.”
Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by someone in the church.
If only those of us who are Christians could see all of the hands. It would be disturbing. It would be sobering. It should change us.
But for many of us, it won’t. We’re too prideful, too holier than thou. Too concerned with making ourselves feel better than everyone else. We’ve got too much stock in the belief that we don’t do much wrong to admit that we might have been doing everything wrong.
For too many of us, ignorance is bliss. We ignore the stories, the hurt, the frustration, and the pain of the people we are supposed to love.
But we forget that we are ignoring Jesus. We are ignoring His voice, calling us to love people in a way we’re not used to. We are ignoring His heart, which beats for every single one of us, no matter what we’ve done or who we are.
It might feel nice and easy, that ignorance. But it’s wrong.
Maybe one day, we’ll see how wrong we were. Maybe it’ll be when we stand before God at His last judgment. Maybe it’ll be too late.
Or maybe that day will be today. Maybe today will be the day we choose to love radically, serve sacrificially, and obey God for real.
Only you can choose.
What do you think? Do you love others the way God has taught us to love?