“Love your neighbor as yourself”
I realize I have a problem with this. I know I shouldn’t. It is, after all, the “second greatest commandment” given to us by God, a.k.a Jesus himself, and second only to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”.
But I still struggle with it. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t disagree with the loving my neighbor part. How could I? Just imagine, if we all loved our neighbors, near and far, just a teeny weenie bit more, how much more peaceful, compassionate and giving this little blue and green planet would be. The bit that gets my knickers in a twist is the qualifier “as yourself”.
Jesus appears to make the assumption that we all love ourselves more than we love our neighbors and that by asking us to love others to the degree to which we love ourselves, it would raise humanity’s love quotient, and there would more happy bunnies in the world and less hurt, pain and suffering sloshing around.
When the rubber hits the road, and we dig into what it means to love, really LOVE, I’m not sure that I can say with total honesty, that I love myself all that much. 1Corinthians 13 is considered the “love chapter” and is frequently read by nervous bridesmaids at weddings, quoted in marriage conferences and expounded as the model for treating your best beloved, best friend or the lady next door, in love. In it we are told that
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
And it is. And it does.
But do I treat myself with that level of love? Do you treat yourself with that kind of love?
Am I kind, patient and honest with myself? Are you with yourself?
Do I keep a record of my wrongs, get angry with myself and delight in my own evil?
Am I rude, self-seeking, proud and boastful to myself or about myself? Are you?
And do I trust myself?
Have hope in and for myself?
Do I persevere with myself?
When we ask ourselves these probing questions the ugly truth can answer us back like the magic mirror in Snow White. I know I’m impatient with myself and beat myself up about the smallest things, proving I definitely keep a record of my wrongs. When I listen to the lie I whisper to myself about my lack of self-worth or when I fail to protect myself from the things I know hurt me, I don’t love myself with 1 Corinthians love.
How can we love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat ourselves like a piece of rubbish, or like the knock kneed kid who gets picked last in PE?
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If we fill our love tank with rancid, green slime, how can we pour fresh, life-giving love into others?
As it so often does, the answer lies with receiving the love of the ultimate lover. The one who isn’t just loving, but is love itself. God is love and He loves us unconditionally.
So this Valentine’s Day let’s go love crazy and pledge to love ourselves. Let’s be kind, honest, and patient with ourselves. Let’s stop keeping a record of all our failures and stupid mistakes. Let’s be slow to anger and try and trust ourselves, especially when it’s the last thing we want to do.
Let’s give it a try. Let’s love ourselves as we love our neighbor. Then and only then, can we truly love our neighbor as ourselves.
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