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What I'm Reading Today: Leviticus 18-20

Today's reading contains some of the most familiar (and most misused!) words in all of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament. In the debate regarding the rights of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) individuals, for instance, some individuals have used Leviticus 18 over and over as their primary reason it's okay to deny LGB individuals their basic human rights. Leviticus 18:22 reads: "Don't have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent" (The Message). That is perhaps the most familiar passage in today's reading.

Many of the same individuals who quote Leviticus 18:22 in the debate over LGB people COMPLETELY ignore Leviticus 19:33 in the debate over the rights of "illegal aliens". Leviticus 19:33 reads: "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born" (NIV).

So what are we to make of the 630 laws contained in the holiness codes? Are the edicts simply words intended for us to pick and choose to meet our personal agendas?

No. I don't think that's it at all.

"If not, then what's the purpose of those words?" you might wonder.

Well, I think the answer to that question lies in Leviticus 20:7. That verse reads: "Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God."

To use a concept I talked about earlier this week, I tend to think of holiness more in light of righteousness (i.e. right relationship) more than I do in light of purity (i.e. right behavior). To use the passages I quoted above, does abstaining from same sex behavior automatically mean a person is in right relationship with God and others. No. Does treating a foreigner well automatically mean that you are exhibiting healthy relationship with God and others? No. You could simply be profiting from the foreigner by using the foreigner as a source of cheap labor. In other words, I believe living into a sense of holiness is much more complicated that most folks on talk radio who toss around passages from Leviticus would like us to believe.

Today, I would invite you to think about the issue of holiness? Do you define it primarily in relationship to behavior, or do you view it more in light of one's relationship with God and others?

Til next time?

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