Today’s reading comes from LV 19:1-2, 11-18
Too often do modern Christians, along with modern critics of Christianity, focus on one facet of the law of love for neighbor that they completely ignore the other. Take for instance this verse from the passage:
“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”
What we immediately hone in on is the second to last bit when YHWH directs the Israelites to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But what about the first part of that commandment – the bolded part? What about the part when YHWH is telling the people that there is a time when it is necessary to tell another person that s/he is sinning? Or, and this is more interesting, that by not reproving our brothers and sisters in their sinning that we incur sin because love demands that we take them serious enough to help them become holy.
Let us then not forget this very first part of that commandment. It is important for us to remember that if we love others as we do ourselves that we would correct them in their mistakes. The mistake, of course, is to think that in reprimanding the one we love, we hate him or her. But this is silly. Just as we do not literally hate ourselves after we realized we had made a mistake, and yet we also reprove ourselves so that we can act differently in the future under the same circumstance; it is therefore also necessary that loving others like we love ourselves demands the same approach.
Charity precludes hostility, maliciousness, a spirit of revenge-seeking, and bearing grudges; but it also precludes indifferentism and relativism. Love, St. Thomas tells us, means willing the good of the other as other, and this willing this good will require us to take them seriously enought to tell them what’s bad.
Happy Monday of the first week of Lent, friends.