|(Scene from a recent retreat)|
“Love your neighbor as yourself ”
This sentence doesn’t just appear once or twice.
It’s repeated at least nine times in scripture:
In Matthew 22, the self-righteous but loveless Pharisees tried to put Jesus to the test. They wanted to trick him into a wrong answer so they could condemn him.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The second greatest commandment of them all. Way above not stealing or lying or murdering or adulterizing. More important than 9 out of the Big 10.
But what does that really mean,
to love my neighbor as I love myself?
Do I actually love myself?
Certainly, I am self-protective.
Self-focused. Even selfish.
But love myself?
Not so much.
I am more painfully aware of my faults and failings than anyone besides God.
He and I have been involved in a long, bitter battle to replace the interior voices of self-condemnation with those of self-affirmation. Routing self-hatred; infiltrating behind Enemy lines with a surge of healthy self-love.
It’s not easy if you’re me.
But little by little, the good troops are winning.
I am beginning to see me as He sees me.
Worthy of great love.
If my neighbor is to be loved “as I love myself,” then I need to cultivate an appropriate, wholesome self-love. Otherwise, my neighbor’s not going to get anything worth having.
Sometimes, though, I feel as if I’m hearing contradictory messages:
Get over yourself
When I question, it appears that the two directives don’t negate each other after all.
Imagine the Almighty replying something like this (to you, too?):
Get over your ego, your pride, your self-consciousness, your insecurities.
Get over your self-focus, self-interest.
Start loving you, (insert your name), the way I love you.
I know your faults. I see your hidden sins. Even the ones you hide from yourself. (You don’t realize half of them!) I know your carnality and arrogance and wrong-mindedness. I see your pride and lust and greed.
And I adore you. Exactly as you are.
I don’t love the sin that pursues and ensnares you.
But I see you as you will be,
my beautiful, blameless, spotless bride.
(As you are, in my eyes, even now; for the work is finished.)
I see your essential self:
the child I created in my image.
What can you say to a love like that? How do you respond?
What my Father values, I must value.
In learning to love myself in a healthy way, I am also learning to care for myself.
We care for those we love.
“Self-care” may sound like self-indulgence to some who enjoy being martyrs. But it is absolutely essential for those who wish to care for others in an effective way. We must take care of ourselves first in order to have what we need to take care of others.
An empty jug cannot be filled from a dry well.
I want to explore what that means in days ahead.