Monday, August 4, 2014

What It Really Means to Love Yourself

~Erin Blair

The Commandment:
In Matthew 22:36 the question is given to Christ: “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And, of course, as we all know, our Lord’s response was to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And while there is a potential for several books to be written on the subject of the first and greatest commandment, we often spend less time considering the meaning of the second greatest. In Matthew 22:39 Christ gives us the second greatest of all the commandments “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Not many in our polite society will argue with the fact that we need to show love to our neighbors. We are oftentimes very adamantly supportive (especially financially) of those who are suffering in some way (much like the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-35). Usually when preaching on being generous, kindhearted, compassionate and loving to our neighbors, there is not a shortage of Amen’s from the well intentioned individuals in the assembly. But, what is fascinating to me is how we have often overlooked the last phrase of that second commandment “as thyself”. And it seems to me that often times when we do note those last two words, it’s with the assumption that we all do fit that requirement of loving ourselves. Logic, in and of itself will tell us that in order to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we must first love ourselves, for if we were to loathe ourselves and then treat our neighbors in the same manner, it would certainly not result in God’s delight. Sadly, because we live in a world full of self destruction through various practices and behaviors (both active and passive!), it is fitting and proper that we should learn what it truly means to love ourselves.

The Confusion:
Jesus said in John 13:35 that the world would recognize us by our true love for one another. The problem with so many in our modern day and age is that we are truly confused with what true love actually is. But why is there so much confusion? Are we as human beings becoming increasingly stupid? I think not. Perhaps for some the cause is true ignorance. They have not been properly taught (whether by example or by instruction) what true love is. We as Christians understand the concept of agape (or agapeo) love. We realize that to love someone means to do what is best for them. To give them what they really need and not just what they want. We understand this because we’ve seen this love exemplified to perfection through Christ (John 15:13). People are not ignorant of this love because its meaning cannot be seen, or because the correct answers are nowhere to be found. The reason why people are ignorant over true love’s meaning is the same reason why people are ignorant of any and all commands the Lord has given. Folks are too busy listening to the voices of their own desires rather than the voice of God. It is the age old problem of destruction via distraction. It is the age old problem of listening to the words emanating from our culture and from Satan “What you want is more important than what you need.” The message we hear from the world is that “love” is related to desire. In the world’s perspective, “love” is almost always linked to emotions, primarily what gives one the emotion of pleasure or “happiness”. This is one reason why so many in failing marriages believe that they are no longer “in love” because the element of infatuation and “happiness” has been absent for some time.  This is not to say that the Christian who seeks a Godly “love” is not a happy individual, but rather that they are not driven by something as fleeting as emotion, but instead by something much more substantial; the fulfillment of genuine needs. The difference between the two definitions can be easily seen in the way someone behaves during a relationship. The parent, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend who defines love from a distorted and worldly view will give their loved one what they want because it will please them and make them “happy”. The one who uses God to measure what love is will give their loved one what they need because it is best for them, and because it will result in their loved one’s fulfillment. We do need to note, however, that in some happy and blessed instances, what someone needs happens to be exactly what they want. The problem arises when the two differ, and a choice between the two must be made. And sadly, it’s far easier to determine what someone wants rather than what they need.

The world says that to indulge your own desires is to love yourself. God says to love yourself, you must give yourself what you truly need, even if what you need is the very absence of what you want (Matt. 16:24-26).

Erin resides in Ben Wheeler Tx with her husband who preaches for the Ben Wheeler congregation. Erin has been involved with preparing and organizing the work of the church since she was a teenager by teaching all ages of Bibles classes, helping prepare and organize Ladies Days, Prom Alternatives, Youth Rallies and VBS.  She is currently works as a paralegal for a law firm. She and her husband also spend their time enjoying their sweet dog, chickens, ducks, quail…etc.  Life is never dull at her house.


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