“Love your neighbor as yourself”. An oft quoted verse from the bible ~ actually a commandment cited by Jesus in Matthew 22 as second only to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.”
When I think of this commandment my first thought is to ask myself whether or not I am being selfish in my own life. Am I giving to others as I am giving to myself? Do I spend more time considering the needs of others than feeding my own desires?
I believe it is healthy and appropriate to ask these questions and to examine our lives to eliminate selfishness and poor attitudes toward others. But I have also been struck by the “what if” in this verse.
What if we don’t love ourselves?
Every neighborhood is filled with hurting people. Too many people don’t even like themselves, forget loving. Some people look in the mirror and detest what they see there. Others have never known true love in their lives. Beat down by words or actions from childhood, all they know is criticism, never praise or acceptance. When there is no example of love in our lives it is difficult to know how to love others.
The challenge I have when I encounter someone who is difficult to love is to not react but to realize. I need to realize that I don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life and I don’t know what is making them act in a certain way. Maybe they’ve had a really difficult day and the way I respond to them could make the difference between whether the day continues to go downhill or takes a turn for the better.
There is a phrase that has become sort of cliché in Christian circles of what would Jesus do? While perhaps this saying can seem tired and overused the reality is that applying it to our lives can make a real impact…for us and those around us. If before responding to others we stop to think about what Jesus would say or how He would act toward the person we encounter we may swallow a sharp retort or adjust the expression on our face and make a bigger impact than we know.
If you are hurting today I want to encourage you that God knows your hurt and wants to show you how to love yourself. He loves you regardless of how you look, how much you weigh, and whether or not you are “successful” by the world’s standards. He already knows all about you and loves you for all you are, the good and the bad.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3
With our human eyes and brain it can be difficult to see how God can love each of us with all of our shortcomings. But whether we understand it or not, He does. God is just waiting for us to cry out to Him and release all of our feelings, good and bad to Him and allow Him to sort them out with us.
God is so faithful that as we allow ourselves to be open and trust Him with our relationships He will bring people into our lives who will walk alongside us and show us what love is supposed to look like here on earth. The relationships may take a while to build and they won’t be perfect, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out. By loving those God puts in our path we will learn how to love ourselves as well.
We are all in this together. Neighbors both physically and through the wonders of electronics. And in our interactions we have power…the power to heal or to crush and the power to love or turn our backs. Allow God to work in you and through you today to learn to love yourself as He loves you and then in turn to love others as you love yourself.
blessings and peace to you…