“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV
I was listening to a podcast recently that was focused in on this piece of Scripture. With the recent terror attacks and debate on refugees in America, it caused me to look once more at the words of Christ here.
You see my neighbor isn’t just the one living in proximity to my home. It’s the people I work with, the people I hang out with, it’s my community, my town and all those I come into contact with. As I listened further something caught my heart. We can only love others as we love ourselves when we in fact do love ourselves.
That’s where I think most of us find the hiccup on this loving others command. Because loving ourselves comes from the overflow of God loving us. It’s us seeing how we are loved by God that we cannot help but love ourselves with that same love, which spills over into loving others as well. But I’ll be honest, I don’t love myself very much.
And I most certainly don’t love as God loves me.
I’m my worst critic and the first to jump out at myself for mistakes and blunders. I will critique things about myself that I would never do to anyone else. But I think we are in this context of viewing that if we love ourselves, as believers, we are being in the flesh and selfish. We are choosing to put ourselves above others. But that’s not what Christ is pointing out here. You see He first points to loving the Lord with every bit that we have-mind, heart and soul.
We love because He first loved us. We didn’t have the capacity to love until He loved us with a love that has no ending-it’s an all-consuming, holy love that flows deep into us. A love not based on performance or looks, not based on intelligence or athletic ability. It’s a love that doesn’t seek anything but to give us value and worth. That same value and worth that we demean when we cut ourselves down through unloving words and thoughts, actions and sentiments.
There are days when I find it incredibly difficult to love people but as I dig deeper into His Word and what He says about me, I am finding that it’s on those days that I haven’t been loving myself well either. You can’t fake love, and you certainly cannot conjure it up…but you can lean into His love and let it flood you when you aren’t feeling lovable. Because that’s when He reminds you of the love He has for you, love that is true and right. Love that is there waiting to fill so that you in turn can love others with that same unwavering love.
Loving your neighbor becomes a commonplace, just as loving yourself does. Give yourself space and grace to love yourself the way He loves you. Then you’ll see yourself loving others in the same way.