The first comes from Deut. 6 and is called sh’ma by Jewish people to this day, meaning to hear. It is an active, participatory hearing, a calling to action. The second comes from Leviticus 19 and verse 18. While these may seem a bit obscure, the link between the two is the same Hebrew word v'ahavta meaning, you shall love.
"you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" Deut. 6:5
"you shall love your neighbor as yourself" Lev. 19:18
What I find interesting is that Christianity often interprets these passages through the scope of post-modern, western individualism. It is perhaps perceived that when the word you is employed, it is talking to me or them on an individual basis. While it is true that a community is made up of individuals, the context of the passage is the Lord speaking to Moses and telling him:
Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You'… Lev. 19:2
“You” here refers to all the congregation (v. 2) This was not about the individual. You (cumulative Israel) shall love your (cumulative Israel) neighbor (someone other than cumulative Israel) as yourself (cumulative Israel).
Why does this matter? It matters because of what they were being told in verse 18, love your neighbor as yourself. Meaning, to love those who were not part of the congregation of Israel, as they loved their own people. While in rabbinic usage neighbor most often refers to a fellow Israelite, I don’t think the cumulative you of the context supports this. Jesus even made mention of this elsewhere:
"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" Matt. 5
This is a big deal, loving people who are not one of us or like us is not an easy thing. If Jesus’ response to the question Who is my neighbor? were examined in its rabbinic context, you would hear Jesus’ in brilliant rabbinic methodology say through story (parable, Lk. 10) that everyone is your neighbor, your worst enemy and even the person who you may despise the most. In their case it was a Samaritan, and in the story it was he who was doing the right thing, while the Priest and Levite who were supposed to be the representatives of the God of Israel were disregarding the weightier matters of the Torah.
For Jesus’ listeners, those despised included the Romans, who oppressed and ruled over them, the Hellenists who were trying to bring in Greek culture, education, entertainment etc. and eradicate the traditionalist ideology, the Zealots who were consumed with revolt and revolution who used whatever means necessary to bring it about (terrorists) and the Samaritans, the hated rivals who would kill Jews (and vice versa). All fall within the interpretation of those who Jesus said one must love. Of course, this comes down to an individual level, but the context of Lev. 19 and Jesus’ words in Luke 10 are a group of people (in this case Jews) loving other peoples (nationalities, nations, gentiles) outside of their own ethnicity or culture. This would have been an immensely hard saying for his listeners considering the atrocities perpetrated on the Jews.
I’m not much into politics, although almost everything is political in nature. But does this sound like anything we have been hearing in the news recently? What is the response from the people of God?
Does Christianity which stems from Judaism and the teachings of this Jewish Rabbi really adhere to the words of its progenitor? What is the Christian response to people who may be culturally different than us, or even a perceived threat? Do we love them like we love those who are one of us? Christians are either living according to the words of Jesus or not, there is no middle ground. People are watching the actions of many who claim to be in Christ and are realizing that they don’t believe it at all. It’s no wonder the younger generation wants little or nothing to do with it, they have little to no example. Love. No exceptions.