Lent Devotional: Leviticus 19:17-18
by Jonathan Haefs
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Can we really be commanded to love?
Doesn’t love lie outside of our control? Isn’t it more of an emotional response that just bubbles up out of the heart? Or… have do we have the concept of love wrong altogether? Perhaps it has nothing to do with affection but is rooted in action no matter what one is feeling. At least then it would make sense that we could be commanded to love. And yet, something about the concept of love having nothing to do with affection just seems wrong.
That’s because it is.
Love absolutely involves affections which do result in actions. This is a both/and situation, not an either/or.
And, God does not hesitate to command us to love! He does not hesitate to command us not to hate! God commands everything about us, even our affections!
How can we possibly obey such commands?
The simple answer is that we cannot. We cannot turn love and hate off and on like flipping a light switch. These things bubble up out of the depths of our heart, which we cannot change no matter how much we try! We need our hearts to be transformed in order for our affections to be transformed. Only God himself can transform a heart!
This is why Saint Augustine said, “Lord, command what you will and grant what you command!” He recognized that we cannot obey the commands of God (like the command to love him and our neighbor) unless God empowers us to obey.
We do not naturally possess the ability to love our neighbors as our ourselves. That is the way that God loves. We need him to pour out his love in our hearts. We need his love abiding in us so that we may love with his love!
Are you abiding in his love? Dear Christian, he has promised to empower you to do so. Pray, seek, depend… abide… and see if your heart is not transformed to love with the very love of God.
*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.