Sermon in a nutshell: Life is protected (Leviticus 17:10-14)
Leviticus is all about living together as a community
Ask Forgiveness and Make peace with others and with God.
We have read the book of Leviticus. The first five chapters deal with five sacrifices: Burnt offering, Grain offering, Peace offering, Sin offering, and Guilt offering. We learned that those sacrifices were required to keep the community in a harmonious condition. We humans cannot escape from sinning. Everybody is a sinner. The question is how to live together as sinners? The answer to that question is “Ask forgiveness from God and neighbors,” making peace with God and neighbors. That was the meaning of those five sacrifices.
We need leaders who have virtues and who are willing to sacrifice.
Then we read Leviticus 6-7 to see what is necessary to build a community. We identified the virtues of hard work, integrity, honesty, humbleness, and sacrifice. However, these virtues are nurtured in a community. We need a community to foster these virtues in leaders and members of the community.
This is the ideal picture of the community of love that the Israelites tried to build in the land of Canaan. They escaped from Egypt, where Pharaoh ruled over people with force and denied any wrong doings. The society where strong people take advantage of the helpless, weak ones was the opposite community of the one that God dreamt of building. God’s dream was planted in these sacrifices and the leadership roles.
Leviticus 8-10 talks about the leadership necessary to build an ideal community. The first five chapters deal with the foundational principles and the next five chapters teach us the leadership qualities needed to implement those principles in our community.
The Bible is interpreted in the light of this dream of the community of love
The next five chapters (chapters 11-15) should be interpreted in the light of this dream of building a community of love. When we read the food regulations (ch. 11), therefore, we read the yearning to be holy (separated from the rest of the pagan world). When we read the childbirth regulations (ch.12) we read the value of each life and the sacrificial love of the parents. When we read the regulations about skin disease (ch. 13), we felt the compassion for the marginalized people in the community. The community worked together to bring them back into the community (ch. 14). When we read the regulations of the discharge of bodily fluids (ch. 15) we read the need for the sacrificial discipline of our body to create lives.
In this community, spiritual life is restored by repentance and physical life is preserved by love.
To achieve God’s dream in this sinful world, we need continuous repentance. Chapter 16 is talking about the Day of Atonement when everybody in the nation should repent his or her sins, including the high priest. Today’s passage forbids us eating blood. It is not a food regulation. It is about the love of life. Life is in blood. In pagan societies, they eat blood as food, a nutrition source, but in God’s community, blood is much more important than being a source of nutrition. It is the source of life.
As long as we are alive, we have an opportunity to repent and to be saved. Once we die, we have to face eternal reality. This passage not only forbids us to eat blood but also to shed the blood of others.
The first step to build a community of love is to value every life!
In the light of this command, we can draw many practical conclusions. In some cases, the biblical stance is not always welcomed. However, we need to know at least what the Bible is supporting:
We can give blood to save the lives of others. However, we do not want to take the lives of others. That is why we have strict regulations against wars and death penalties. We believe that the taking of human lives is evil, even though it is a “necessary” evil. In our human condition, we cannot live a day without sinning. However, we are not proud of our sins. Whenever we have to take lives away, we do it with tears and broken hearts. We can refuse to prolong our life with artificial means but we do not support assisted killing (euthanasia). There are still many more issues to debate but all come to this one basic principle: every life is valuable. May God bless all the living beings in the world!
- To which issue should this principle of life-first be applied?
- What would be a modern counterpart of “eating blood” in the Bible?