“Appetites” (Leviticus 17-18)
Well, our month-long experiment in the book of Leviticus has ended. The bacon is frying and the razor blades flying, though as far as I know, none of our Levites-for-the-month have taken to bed with their mothers. While we may toss Leviticus 19’s prohibition against shaving out the window now that it’s February, chances are good that we will still keep those laws in chapter 18 forbidding incest. But why? Why incest but not shaving? On what basis do you ignore one commandment while obeying another? This has always been the hard part when it comes to Leviticus. Shoot, it’s the hard part when it comes to whole Bible. Traditionally a distinction has been made between what’s considered cultural—applicable to a particular place, time and circumstance—and what’s considered universal and therefore applicable regardless of place, time and circumstance. Sometimes this works. Clearly for Christians, Levitical burnt animal sacrifices are now moot due to Jesus’ supreme sacrifice on the cross. But Leviticus 19’s injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself” still applies—explicitly affirmed by Jesus who labeled it the second greatest commandment, second only to loving God with your whole being.