So Much More
“Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:16b (NIV)
In 7th grade, my Social Studies teacher engaged our class in a debate about the morality of the death penalty. I came out against. “Thou shalt not kill” was my entire argument. He insisted a better translation was, “Thou shalt not murder.” And we spent the rest of class wrangling over which ways to kill someone were the most ethical.
I wish we had known Leviticus 19. “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life.” Nothing that even puts your neighbor in danger. While we were parsing the fine line of what we could get away with, God was inviting us to so much more.
That’s often the way. I treat God like the big brother in the backseat of the car in whose face I am waving my hands saying, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!”
I spend my energy debating just how unloving it’s acceptable to be and under what circumstances. Is this a lie of omission or commission? How little can I give and still be generous?
As if the new life that Jesus offers is one with just the right amount of dishonesty or only the acceptable kinds of killing. As if God were a judge whose hands could be tied by a loophole. As if God’s grace could be won on a technicality.
As if it could be won at all.
Which of course it can’t. Not by following a strict set of rules. Nor by following an even stricter one. God’s grace is an invitation to walk away from the fine line I’m drawing and live in the open expanse of love.
God, open me up to so much more.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.