Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Because of my recent travel, I have only now begun to been celebrating Oklahoma's new (forced) recognition of Gay Marriage. Ironically, as I restarted my non-travel-morning-practice I also found this weeks lectionary to be on Leviticus (19:1-2, 15-18 to be exact). This is the only time in a three year rotation that Leviticus makes the lectionary cut. I must say my relationship with Leviticus has been damaged over the years having been bludgeoned by it (18:22, 20:13). This center of the Torah that liberal Christianity so quickly dismisses as archaic and irrelevant also includes entertaining "Thou shalt not's" that make good fodder when fundamentalists pick and choose what they lift up in the text. My favorite Leviticus until today includes no shellfish and no blended fabrics :) Leviticus is not a book I typically turn to for inspiration. However, I learned something I didn't know this read through.
Leviticus is a call to holiness, to do things "decently and in order." Even though, who gets to define holiness has been a 2000 year argument that will likely never be resolved. I did not know that Leviticus is the only place where the Golden Rule occurs twice... and in two very different ways. Chapter 19 Verse 18 says "love your neighbor as yourself." This in theory is a great idea, but works only if you are surrounded by people just like you. As a cultural competency trainer I am invested in showing the good intentions but poor impact of the the Golden Rule by introducing the Platinum rule: Do unto others as THEY would have done unto them. This requires knowing what they would like done unto them. We teach others how to respect us. We must be curious about and seek to discover how others would like to be respected and not assume we know. And here is where Leviticus, after years of abuse has finally earned my respect. The second wording of the Golden rule seems to have platinum underpinnings. Verse 34 reads, "You shall love the stranger (the alien) as yourself, for you were strangers (aliens) in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
In lifting up both neighbor and stranger, Leviticus seems to be lifting up that you cannot simply stop the conversation with those like you and pushes us to think about how we have indeed been strangers ourselves. Embedded in so many rules and regulations how will we possibly get it all right? We won't. And so we must learn how to make mistakes and stay connected to the person beyond the disrespect. We must in fact get our hands dirty. And when we do, we tap into the humility of when we ourselves were strangers in a strange land unaware of when we offended even when our hearts were in a good place. I am going to shout the good news of Leviticus from the rooftops now.. when you are offended, assume well intended... when you offend speak from your heart and stay in relationship. Isn't that the holiest of places anyway? When two people meet and that third place is created where differences and similarities are celebrated? May it be so.