What About Love?

Last week, we discovered that Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” wasn’t a new command, but rather Jesus was quoting from the book of Leviticus.

Let’s look at that passage in Leviticus:

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:18 

The question that jumps into my mind is what does the Hebrew word for love mean that is used in this verse in Leviticus?.  Is it different from the way that we use “love” in our English language?

The word for love is Ve’ahvta – literally means, ”and you shall love”. In fact, this phrase only occurs three times in the Torah, two of them in Leviticus 19 (verse 18 and 34), and the other in the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:5.

Digging in to the meaning of this word, I discovered three important things:

1.  The love mentioned here in Leviticus is more than just emotions or an inward mental state, but something that expresses itself in action.

We can’t love our neighbor just by mental feelings towards them, we must put them into action.  Do we love our neighbors?  Is there proof of that love in actions that I have shown them?

2.  Love refers to loyalty, as in the loyalty of subjects to their kings or slaves to their masters.

We can’t love our neighbor as some duty that makes us feel better about ourselves, it should come from our loyalty to our neighbor.  If I would ask my neighbors if I am loyal to them, what would they say?

3.  The command “to love” is requiring us to act and live in a certain way, a way that sets God’s people apart from all others – a holy love.

And this love is a different kind of love – a love that sets us apart.  Is the love that I show others set me apart or does it cause me to blend into the rest of my neighbors?

All of this leads us to the next question – “who is my neighbor”?  That is the topic of next week’s post.

Does this Hebrew definition for love support or change your understanding of Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as yourself?