Saturday, June 23, 2018

How Can You Love Your Neighbor If You Aren't Sure How To Love Yourself?

"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.' And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40!  

This has been on my mind constantly. We’ve recently discussed this in my SS class, I’ve read it on social media, I’ve heard it mentioned a lot lately. Yet I wondered...about the part that says “Love your neighbor as yourself”, what about all those who find it difficult to “love yourself”.
How can you “love your neighbor” or anyone well, if you don’t love yourself? So I did some research, and this is what I found.
An article written by Danielle Bernock from Crosswalk describes it like this: 
Loving your neighbor as yourself is found eight times in the Bible. Not once. Not twice. Eight times. Loving your neighbor as yourself is so important to God that He not only repeats Himself, He makes it a command. And not just one in a list of many commands. Jesus coupled the command to love your neighbor as yourself with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 
James calls it the royal law. It sounds beautiful, and it is when we obey it.
But loving your neighbor as yourself isn’t always easy. That’s why God made it a command. He knew we’d struggle. Making it a command is actually to our benefit. How is that? We have to do it on purpose, be intentional about it. Sometimes even out of our need. 
This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself:
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/JacobAmmentorpLund
1. Loving your neighbor means receiving God's love.

1. Loving your neighbor means receiving God's love.

Too begin to love your neighbor as yourself, you need to know two things: you need to know what love is and that you are loved. 
The Bible tells us “this is love. Not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son as a propitiation…” (1 John 4:10). You are the object of this love. God loves you. Knowing this is imperative. And not just loved in a general kind of way, but deeply loved and unconditionally loved. We tap into this when we understand that God loved us first. He’s the source of our love. God loved us even before Jesus gave Himself for us. God the Father is the source of all love. Before we can give this love we need to receive it for ourselves. You can’t give what you don’t have.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock

2. Loving your neighbor means loving ourselves as well.

To love your neighbor as yourself as commanded, you need to measure correctly. The measurement within this command is—as yourself. To love your neighbor as yourself you need to love yourself. This is something that gets misunderstood in the body of Christ often. It gets mixed up with dying to self and denying self as if we need to destroy our self. This is not true. 
Jesus died for each and every one of us. If Jesus valued us enough to go through what He went through, we owe it to Him to value what He values. We need to love what He loves – us. The Bible even tells us that the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23). How dare we not love what the Father loves. Learning to love ourselves prepares and helps us to love our neighbor.  
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/razyph

3. Loving your neighbor means showing grace.

Knowing God is love and that this love is for you is not enough. It needs to be developed. Imagine if you had a field of good soil and a bag of top notch seeds. Would they produce a crop all by themselves? No. The seeds must be planted and cared for. Grace takes the seed of His love and the soil of our heart and creates fruit for the kingdom of God. 
The Bible says, “it’s God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2.13). Loving Him and our neighbor pleases Him. Grace helps us do this. Grace teaches us proper love and respect for ourselves and for our neighbor. Freely receiving His grace empowers us to freely give it. 
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4. Loving your neighbor means acting with compassion.

When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He responded with a story: the Good Samaritan. Even those who have no love for God see the value of the story. What is the bottom line of this story? Who did Jesus say was being a neighbor? The one who had compassion. 
Compassion is not simply a warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts. Compassion does something. A heart that’s moved by compassion cannot sit idly by while someone suffers a need. Loving your neighbor as yourself is being moved to help to the full extent of your ability. 
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/LightFieldStudios

5. Loving your neighbor means looking out for their wellbeing.

The NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 13 says, “love protects.”In Philippians 2:4 it says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Loving your neighbor as yourself is to look out for other people’s wellbeing. 
To look out for them is to pay attention. You notice if they need something and then you help. For example, their clothing tag is sticking out or they have food on their face so you let them know. Or something more serious like when my neighbor’s toddler got out and crossed the street. Concerned for his safety, I headed over there. I was almost there when the grandma came out to intercept him and thanked me.
Photo courtesy: @Thinkstock/AntonioGuillem

6. Loving your neighbor means serving them.

Serving from the heart is kindness in action. Kindness is one of the attributes of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13. The funny thing about kindness, though, is you can do acts of kindness without kindness residing in your heart. If the kind thing is done out of duty then it isn’t love. 
Jesus said he came to serve (Matthew 20:28). God, who is love, came to serve. Love serves. For you to love your neighbor as yourself, you’ll have a heart to serve them. Let them know you’re there for them. If they need a ride somewhere, you drive them. If they need their dog or cat checked on while they’re out of town, you do that for them. Other examples are getting their mail for them or taking them a meal if they’re not well. Examples in a public setting are to let people in front of you in line at the store or in traffic.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/David Sacks

7. Loving your neighbor means speaking kindly.

The childhood rhyme about stick and stones versus words is not true. Words build up or tear down. God created the world using words. The Bible says Jesus IS the Word (John 1:1). 
To love your neighbor as yourself is to use words to build them up. Speaking words of encouragement to someone who’s down is the most obvious example but there are others. We can be more intentional with our words by looking for and magnifying the good. We can always find something good if we’ll take the time to look for it. Examples of this are giving someone a compliment and telling someone you appreciate them. 
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8. Loving your neighbor means making allowances for other people's humanity.

We live in a day and age when offense is as common as breathing. Criticism is running rampant. Love is not easily offended or critical. Everyone does dumb things; no one is always right or knows everything. We’re all a work in progress. 
I remember sitting through a green light. I wasn’t trying to inconvenience anyone. I got stuck in grieving daze because a family member died. I remember that when I encounter people driving too slow, sitting at lights, or even cutting me off. Maybe they have a reason. Maybe they’re just being human. We’re imperfect beings that do dumb things often. 
Giving people the benefit of the doubt is loving your neighbor. For example, I had a lady flailing her arms and cursing because I didn’t go through an almost red light. She was behind me so got stuck at the red light with me. I don’t know why she was so angry but she may have had other circumstances surrounding her that day. I prayed for her.

9. Loving your neighbor means sharing in their joys and sorrows.

The Bible says we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). 
Celebrating can be difficult for us at times, especially if our neighbor is getting something we have longed for. For example, a new job, a raise, or a pregnancy. Celebrating with them in spite of our own pain is a strong show of love. 
Likewise. mourning with our neighbor can be hard if we don’t know what to say, or have recently lost something or someone ourselves. Loving your neighbor as yourself is showing up and being there with your heart open, allowing them to be what they are and support them.

10. Loving your neighbor means forgiving.

Forgiveness is a big deal to God. The Bible says He planned it for us from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus frequently spoke forgiveness over others that resulted in the healing of their bodies. 
Forgiveness is freely given to us and to love your neighbor as yourself you’ll pass the forgiveness on. Jesus highlighted this in His story in Matthew 18 when Peter asks how many times is he to forgive. He tells the story of a king who forgave an enormous debt to one of his servants. This servant failed to pass the forgiveness on. He demanded payment of a small debt from his neighbor. When the king heard of it, he had his servant remanded for his debt, revoking the debt cancellation. Jesus’ story tells us that love always forgives.
We all need forgiveness, so loving your neighbor is to forgive them as you have been.

And this came from

"Question: "What does it mean to love your neighbor as you love yourself?"

An expert in the law tried to test the Lord Jesus by asking Him to declare what was the greatest commandment in the Law of Moses. In one masterful statement, Jesus condensed the entire law that God had given Moses: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).

When we read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, we are struck with the realization that they focus on these two issues. Certainly we are to love God supremely. But what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Jesus is quoting here from Leviticus 19. Let’s look at its context:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:9–18).

Notice that loving our neighbor would include sharing with the poor and the alien; compassion and absolute honesty and justice in our relationships with others; impartiality; a refusal to be a party to gossip or slander; an absence of malice toward anyone and a refusal to bear a grudge; taking care never to put another’s life at risk and never taking private vengeance upon another. It is also interesting to note that when we have an issue with anyone, we should strive to make it right by going to him or her directly. James calls this the “royal law” (James 2:8). Our Lord taught that we should do to others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12).

It is a fact that anyone who does not have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ will die in his sins and face eternity in hell. Therefore, we owe it to our neighbors to lovingly share with them the good news of the gospel. True believers have been forgiven, possess eternal life, and have blessings forever as the result of others who have shared the gospel with them. God’s love is evidenced in us as we communicate this precious gospel and love others as we have been loved."

I read several other articles regarding "loving yourself" and how it impacts "loving your neighbor".  What I took away from them was that Jesus loves us all equally and enough, and the commandment is really about trying to love people the way Jesus does, including yourself.  Of course we, as humans, can not fully do this; but I think a very important part of the commandment is to remember that He loves us all....every one of us....even those who might be hard to love, including ourselves sometimes.  I also feel like a very important part of the commandment is reiterating that we are loved, and that accepting this love is part of the greatest commandment....even when we don't feel like we are worthy.  Jesus loves us....everyone! 

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