The following is based on a portion of a transcript from a sermon from November 21, 2015.
In the Torah, in Leviticus 19:18, the Lord says, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Holy Bible, KJV). This is an interesting concept, love thy neighbor as thyself. Sure, it’s not unfamiliar to Jews, Christians, or really any religion. This statement reflects the point of all world religions.
What is interesting to me is that this isn’t just a Law for the Children of Israel, how they are to treat one another. This particular verse does clearly say, “children of thy people.” However, there’s a catch. Further down, in verses 33-34 we read:
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Let’s tie this together. In verse 18 we’re commanded to love our neighbors, the people we know. In verses 33-34 it extends to anyone coming into the land. This is important, because this is the Law. When refugees come we don’t say, “let’s see what they can do for us, let’s see what skills they have.”
And, this isn’t just for Christians living in Israel, it’s for the whole Christian world. The Lord has commanded us to help all people. They are our neighbors and they are one with us.
Why? Because we are one human race. There is no race, nations, etc. in the eyes of God. We are all the spirit children of Heavenly Parents. Christ is the God that created our physical bodies. And as we accept Christ, he becomes the Father of our salvation, thus he is the Father and the Son.
Some may argue the Law is dead. It has been fulfilled in Christ. We don’t need to love our neighbors anymore. We no longer follow the Law of Moses.
I want to say two things on this. First, yes; the Law is dead in Christ. But, it is also Alive in Christ. Once we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior we are Born Again. And, we grow in Grace as we get closer to him in spirit, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Second, as Christians it is our duty to represent Jesus Christ. We do not do this by sacrificing animals. We do this through our love for others. Our love is the works that we do in his name.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:43-48:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
This says a lot. First, it repeats the Law as taught in Leviticus. Thus, this part of the Law is not dead. It also teaches us that this is the very definition of perfection. To be perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect, we must love others even as God loves them – with a perfect love.
We are made perfect through Christ, by his Grace. We accept him, we are Born Again, and because of this we are moved by the Holy Spirit to do good works. To do the works of God, we’re baptized by water and fire. We’ve been washed clean of the past. We have the Spirit of God dwelling within us as we move forward, that we may grow in Grace and be better people. How simple is it to just be a nice person? to take care of one another? to bear each other’s burdens?
In the Book of Mormon, Christ teaches the same doctrine to the Lehites.
And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good. Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new. Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. -3 Nephi 4:70-73 RAV, 12:43-48 OPV.
There are some obvious similarities, and some subtle differences here, and I think they are both important. We know that things of the Law that were fulfilled are now done away. Mankind is under a new Law, the Law of Christ. Jesus was the sacrifice. He is the great example. The love he had for his neighbor, for us, to die on the Cross. Now it is no longer “as our Father in Heaven,” but as he, Jesus Christ, “and our Father in Heaven are perfect.”
Each passage states we are to love our neighbors, just as we are taught in the Law. Seeing that this is said after the resurrection, we know for certain that this commandment has not been done away with.
This is the great work we show after we’ve been born again. We too love our neighbors, just a Christ set the perfect example for us to do. It’s that compassion for our fellow beings. We see that we were in a fallen state, that Jesus Christ descended below it all, and suffered for us. He died for us. And, all he asks us to do in return is love him. To accept him. To come to him with a broken heart and contrite spirit. And by doing this, the Holy Spirit moves us. We grow in Grace and become Christlike, loving our neighbors. Not turning them away, but helping them in any way we can.