A friend an I have been conversing via email on various topics, the latest of which I had a question regarding the Sabbath year mentioned in Leviticus 25 and the gleaning of fields by the poor. My friend graciously gave me her thoughts on the matter, which I may get into another time, and in the process sparked an idea in my mind. Why is it that the Bible focuses so much on loving each other?
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22, emphasis mine)
I think it's interesting that God continues to call them to remember their time in Egypt, the hardship they faced, the lack of food, the oppression and mistreatment, etc. He calls them to remember how difficult it was being poor, being a foreigner with nobody looking out for their needs, and calls them to have mercy, to love each other and forgive each other (Lev 19:17), to deal justly with each other (Lev 19:14-15, Lev 19:35-36) as well as with the strangers among them and instructs that they be treated as one of their own (Lev 19:34). This idea really blows open God's promise to bless all nations through Abraham.
Through Abraham's line salvation comes, but on top of that, as if the opportunity for salvation wasn't enough He tells us to love each other. Perhaps it is in loving each other, in dealing justly with each other the person receiving such treatment will come to see the greatness of God's mercy in a new way. How often the mercy and patience of God has escaped me until I see Him at work in the heart of someone I know. To be on the receiving end, to see someone who loves God so much that they can barely contain themselves, to see them reach out to someone who is so lost and lovingly care for them...Well, there aren't words to describe how moving it is when you realize God is working through them, when you realize God reaches out to each of us in a manner that is even more loving than that of the person you see. It is often when we receive grace from others that we find a new appreciation for the work Christ did on the cross.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Even as strangers He calls us to become part of His family, He longs to provide for us, to care for us, to redeem us by His Son's sacrifice, but we must be willing to go to that field and accept the provision He has left for us, we must be willing to go and lay at His feet in submission and accept the redemption He will provide at the cross. He redeems us because it is in doing so that He is glorified.
Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? (Psalms 6:4-5)
He tells us to love each other, to be merciful, to be forgiving, to be patient, because He is all these things and when we do the these things we show the strangers in our midst His love.