A few months ago Simon Holley spoke at Jubilee Church on Having a Heart Like Your Father and mentioned someone speaking to him about the difficulty of loving your neighbour as yourself if you have difficulty loving yourself. This is a verse that I have struggled with myself so I asked Peter Davey to help us understand this command from Jesus.
Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19.19, 34)
Whilst the maxim to do to others what you would have them do to you is universally accepted as a moral principle only the Bible tells us to “love others as we love ourselves.” (Matt 7.12)
Love your neighbour is repeated in the new Testament by:
Jesus (Matt 19.19; 22.39; Mark 12.31; Lk 10.27)
Paul (Rom 13.9; Gal 5.14) and
James (2.8) who calls it the ‘royal law’.
Jesus (Matt 5.43-44) extends this to “love your enemies” and later links it with loving the Lord your God as the two most important laws (Matt 22.39).
How can you do this?
Your neighbour may be ‘difficult’ or your self-love might be minimal. So consider these thoughts:
1 Receive God’s love.
We love because God first loved us (1John 4.7-12) ‘This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us…’ It is His love that is the source of my love. I am the object of God’s deep and unconditional love. God loved me even before Jesus came and gave Himself for me. I need to embrace this fact and receive the love God has for me.
We are told that the Father loves us just as much as He loves Jesus (Jn 17.23) How dare we not love what the Father loves. Learning to love ourselves appropriately prepares and helps us to love our neighbour.
2. It takes Faith
So many times the Bible records the actions of people who acted in faith that God would enable them to accomplish something seemingly impossible- consider;
Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1Sam 14.4-15) reasoned “nothing can hinder the Lord”
David (1Sam 17. 23-51) questioned “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine” … anyway compared to the Lord?
These and other examples are individuals who believed beyond their experience but had faith that God was able to do significantly more by His power than they had already seen.
3. Obedience leads to increase
Every person begins with utter inability. Each of us needs the empowering of God to live a life of obedience and faithfulness. It is because of the small steps of faith that we are able to declare; “All my life you have been faithful! All my life you have beeen so, so good!”
Like Peter (Matt 14.29) we all have to ‘get down out of the boat’ in order to walk on water! What that step of faith accomplished in him and others was amazing!
Paul declares that God ‘uses the foolish to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong … and things that are not to nullify things that are’ (1Cor 1.27-28)
Maybe what you are not (yet) is what God wants you to step into – by faith!
Jonathan and his armour-bearer created panic that led to complete victory by their hare-brained scheme! David’s perceived arrogance transformed him from a lion- killer into a dragon-slayer whilst Peter’s audacious request made him into a water-walker!
What might God do through you as you learn to love yourself and others!