Our love for one another and our love for our fellow man is what should set us apart from the world. God called us to be holy. Holy does not mean pious, self-righteous, or super good. It means distinctively set apart for a sacred purpose. Our love is what makes it obvious to the world that we are different. 1 John 4:7-15 says it this way,
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
The passage we are reading today, reminded Israel what loving your neighbor looked like. Verses 15-16 read,
You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.
Regardless of a person’s socio-economic status be it servant or master, he is imbued with certain rights as a human being. But Satan steals those rights. Only Christ can give them back. Love, showing the same concern for someone else that we show to ourselves gives us compassion for our fellow man. If a servant escaped his master, there had to be some reason. If it were simply because he didn’t like his job, even if he were a bond-servant there were avenues other than escape which would serve him better. To escape meant that he was being mistreated. He could find refuge in Israel. He could find liberty from tyranny. He could find security.
Imagine today, when slavery means more than bond-servant, maid, or employee. It means a person held against her will, forced to work without payment or hope of freedom. There are countless slaves in the world today. Slavery is rampant, even in the U.S. Picture the woman who escapes that kind of slavery and makes it to your church or your home. You would, I hope offer her asylum, get her to safety, feed her, clothe her, and ensure she is safe.
Now change the picture in your head to understand that all those people out there who do not know Jesus as Christ are bound in chains to Satan. They are slaves and don’t know it. They obey their stomachs, their deepest desires and think they are free. All the while they are being led blindly to their eternal destruction. We have the hope they need! We can offer them the sanctuary of Christ, the freedom of Truth, and the hope of eternal life.
We certainly do not place people back into slavery to the prince of the world, the father of lies. And we do not allow evil, money or other benefit from evil to sully the Body of Christ. There is no love if we allow someone to voluntarily step into slavery and take the money for the church. If we do then we work hand in hand with Satan to further the abhorrent practices of wickedness. Verses 17-18 put it this way,
None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.
The world serves money, we do not. You cannot serve both money and God. If you serve money, you are not devoted to God. If you love God you know you have no need to bow down to money. Even if you think only a small part of you chases after money so that you can meet your needs, it is your entire being that is affected. Chasing your own provision, seeking wealth, or loving money means you do not trust The Lord God to be God. In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus said,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
A few verses later in Matthew 6:33 Jesus told us if we seek the Kingdom of God above all else, everything else, all our needs would fall into place. We can trust God completely.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
What does chasing money have to do with loving your neighbor? How does not being concerned with provision translate into loving one another? Verses 19-20 read,
You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.20 You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
We do not help one another for personal gain. We help one another out of love, out of modeling the love of God and being who He made us to be. Imagine if accepting Jesus as Savior required we pay. The entire sacrifice would be futile. Jesus paid our debt of death for us. He doesn’t make us pay Him for it. It is free. So our loans to one another should also be free.
Verses 21-23 read,
If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.
I think people tend to take oaths, vows, and promises pretty lightly. We say it in assurance to one another. We say them to comfort. But The Lord takes vows very seriously. When god makes a promise, we can know with absolute faith that it is done. We on the other hand are not God, we cannot be so confident in our own ability to keep a vow. We do not have the certainty of tomorrow, how can we promise anything?
God always keeps His word. His word is powerful, He speaks, it is. His word is the manifestation of His will. So since He has made us holy like He is holy, if we make a vow, we are under contract to keep our word. If we break it, we not being like Him, we show the world someone other than Jesus and lead them to faithlessness. Loving our neighbor requires we keep every promise we make. But Jesus said it is better not to make a vow, to let yes be yes and no be no. There is no need to add, “I promise,” I swear,” or anything else to it (Matthew 5:33-37).
Loving one another requires concern for one another. We trust God enough to know we can be freely generous with one another and we have enough respect for each other that we do not take what isn’t ours. Verses 24-25 read,
If you go into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. 25 If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.
I picture this scenario. If I visit my brother or sister in Christ, I know we love each other, we are family. I can open his refrigerator and get a glass of water, even make a sandwich and know that he will not be offended or hurt. But, I am not going to take his money and go to the grocery store to fill up my pantry and refrigerator. I am not going to open his freezer to stock mine! There is mutual generosity between us and then there is flat out disrespectful freeloading.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is like loving God with our entire being (Matthew 22:37-40). Our love reveals Jesus to people and makes us more like Him. Our love for one another separates us from the world, it makes us stand out and says, “This person follows Jesus!” Jesus said,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).