We’ve been exploring how to love ourselves Biblically, as it states in Luke 10:27 And he answered and said, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
Many people teach that we naturally love ourselves because we withdraw from pain, feed ourselves, and are drawn to addictive behaviors that give us pleasure. While that may be true, that is not the love that is spoken of in Luke 10:27. More the pity if it were, and that were all we had to offer the world as representatives of Christ is if it feels good do it.
That’s why the verse begins with what Matthew 22:38 describes as “the great and foremost commandment.” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
Then He says in Matt. 22:39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
Just as in James 4:7 we are told to (first) Submit therefore to God. (then we will have the power to) Resist the devil and (the result is) he will flee from you
Similarly we take apart Matthew 23:38-39 that we (first) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (then you will have right desires, and Godly love (agape not phileo or eros) and will be so filled with God that…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. It will be a natural result.
- With all my heart. The great I AM is not a god of stone – He is a God of emotion. He says He is a jealous God, and a consuming fire. Sounds like the picture I had of God as a kid…an old man with a long beard and a big stick waiting to clunk me upside the head (not that I didn’t deserve it), but the Hebrew word apto means to devour, to consume expense, to totally bear all the cost. When I give my heart that way to God, I give control of my emotions to no other god. I respond to His love at any cost.
- With all my soul. This goes far beyond emotion. This is me – the me that lives behind the public veil. The me that says yes or no to the emotions. The me that lives into eternity. The me that is made up of the drive, gifts, talents that God gave that I must use and develop to fully live.
- With all my mind. This is where faith comes in. My mind tends to join Eve in the garden and wonder, “Did God say…?” My mind tends to say, but just this one…you deserve it. And my mind tends to listen to the accuser say, you always…or you never…My mind makes those choices. But with ALL of that mind, I will choose instead to love the Lord my God.
Then, and only then, when I realize how God loves me – totally, jealously, by choice, beyond all reason, will I see how precious I am to Him.
When my children have been in danger and I cried out to God asking Him to let me bear their pain, to let me take their place, to let me choose above all other options for myself to love them with my heart, my soul, my all, then, and only then, did I understand how God loves me, and then I could finally love Him back, removing that last veil, and unlocking that last door.
Then, He began loving through me in ways I knew I never possessed on my own.
How can I love myself and love my neighbor (anyone in my circle of influence whose needs I can meet) as myself?
By giving myself up to God so that they see God and not me.
I am often as amazed as the recipient when that happens. It is a sign from God according to I John 3:14 that we are in Christ. “We know that we have left death and come over into life; we know it because we love others.”
Doesn’t that little word “love” take on new meaning! It certainly has for me.
God wants us to love our neighbor the same way that he loved and continues to love us.
And we will talk more of that next time…