Be Careful With Leviticus

This is not a political post. It is a post about Bible interpretation.

At least fourteen times over the last ten days I have had a couple of verses pop up in some way on my Facebook feed. Maybe you have seen it, if not, here it is:

Leviticus 19:33-34 “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. (34) The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (NIV)

Every time I have seen these verses they have been directly applied to how God feels about the refugee and immigration issues going on in America right now. I am not here to write about that situation, it is a post for another time. [By the way, I am reading everything I can about that issue to develop a complete view of what is happening, why it is happening and how Christians should respond.]

What is bothering me now is the huge issue of using these Bible verses for anything. You see there are rules for how we read the Bible and when we ignore those rules we misuse the Bible and can prove almost anything.

First, Leviticus is a part of the Old Testament law given to Israel. Yes, it does lay the groundwork for Christianity, but we live under another covenant with God through Jesus Christ. Christians simply do not live under the law of Moses. It is extremely important to understand this context. Otherwise, we find ourselves living under the whole law.

The full context of these verses is chapter 19 of Leviticus. There are 37 verses in that chapter, and they contain several interesting statements. For example, verse 23-25 say that you are not to gather the harvest of a fruit tree for the first three years. Then in the fourth year, you are to offer the fruit as an offering to the Lord. Another example is found in verse 28 that says we are not to have tattoos. I have read lengthy articles that explained in detail why that passage does not apply to us today.

Second, other questions arise out of good Bible interpretation.

This passage was written to the nation of Israel. Do the passages about Israel apply directly to America? This passage addresses resident aliens in the Israelite community. Is that the same as modern-day refugees? The passages say not to mistreat them. What constitutes mistreatment?

The primary meaning and understanding of this passage are for the people of Israel to treat non-Israelite people living among them as they would a native-born Israelite.

Third, there is a question of application.

The question born out of that understanding of this passage is, “Does it apply today?” Maybe the better question is, “How does that apply to today?”

Personally, I believe this passage does paint us a big picture idea. In the Old Testament God desired for his people to care for those who were outside of their own national background. After that, the application is fuzzy at best.

Here is my point; Leviticus 19 is not a verse that directly applies to America. Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s true.

Is there a concept believers can learn from this passage? Sure. Does that concept have application to believers today? Sort of. Does this passage have application to the US policy on immigration? That is a long, long stretch.

No matter how you feel about the current situation, I beg you, please don’t misuse the Bible to push any agenda. A proper use of scripture is the first step toward unity in the spirit.

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