With February now here and Valentine’s Day in the air, what better time to talk about the topic of Love. This topic is an incredibly vast one with what seems like an endless number of angles and aspects to discuss, with romantic love, relationships with others, self-care, and our view of God’s love for us and our love back to Him, just to name a few.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
For those of us who see faith as an important part of our lives, you will undoubtedly be familiar of the verses shared, known as “The Greatest Commandment”. Regardless of our faith background or beliefs, our understanding of these verses may be limited. Many of us can try to at least understand the concept of loving God with EVERY part of ourselves – our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not a lot of attention will be given to this first part of the “Great Commandments”, even though it is the very foundation for the 2nd commandment. Most of us can all grow in our view of who God is, and in our devotion, worship, trust, and obedience focused on God (maybe a future blog). This 1st Great Commandment summarizes the first 5 of the Ten Commandments – Love God.
But what about the 2nd Great Commandment, which summarizes the last 5 of the Ten Commandments – Love People, – love your neighbor as yourself? In my experience, most people when reading this, either naturally think, have learned, or have been taught to focus on how we are supposed to love and care for our neighbors (others). It’s often taught as a charge to be more thoughtful, kind, generous, and forgiving, and OTHERS FOCUSED. And it’s also a reminder to be less (WAY less) selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, and ME FOCUSED – all for the sake of other people’s good and well-being.
A better understanding of the original language helps us see that the verse reads, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. But how does it make sense to love people as (or like) we love ourselves, if our natural tendency as people is to be selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed? Maybe it can make a bit more sense if we reverse it and pretend for a minute that the verse says, “love yourself as you love your neighbor”. How could this change not only our own perspective, but also our actual behaviors and the quality of our relationships? Maybe seeing it this way can help remind us to take the same thoughtfulness, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness we are supposed to focus on others, and focus them on ourselves as well.
What if we learned to love ourselves in a way that reinforces our need for humility and vulnerability, and not our need for pride and self-protection? What if our love for ourselves was truly kind and caring, and not distorted by negativity and guilt?
Oh, how this revolutionary, “Love-of-Self” could be so healthy for each of us! How it could be so honoring to God and how He has created each of us! And how it could be truly helpful to the neighbors all around us that we are called to love!