Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
It might be to your surprise that the most important relationships you have aren’t interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal relationships are those that are focused on getting along with other people. How can that be? If this is true then what is the most important type of relationship?
The first and most important relationship is your intrapersonal relationship. Which is your relationship with yourself. If you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, it will be impossible to have long lasting, healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with others.
How well we know ourselves is the key to all relationships. Most people don’t know their strengths and they are in denial of their weaknesses. You need to be real with yourself and get to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.
If you don’t know what you must manage about yourself, how do you expect to be the best that you can be?
The most important person to love is not others: it is you.
Let’s see what Jesus said on the subject:
Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Jesus was asked a question by a pharisee. Pharisees are experts of the law - they extracted 669 laws from the old testament. This pharisee comes to Jesus and asks a practical question: of all the laws, which one is the most important?
(This was part of the pharisee’s life work - when Paul talked about his life before getting saved when he was a pharisee he said that he was blameless concerning the law - that’s how they measured each others status)
Essentially he was asking Jesus to simplify the system, what is the most important law?
Jesus tells him: love God with all your heart. Who would disagree with this? Loving God is the basis for Christianity. I talked about this in my previous post.
Jesus told the pharisee to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind - which is fitting for a pharisee because pharisees obeyed the law out of works and obligation, not love. It was more for show and bragging rights, that’s why Jesus continually gave them such a hard time about their rules, regulations, and rituals.
The first command Jesus gave is absolutely essential - however I want to focus on what he said next…
He gave the pharisee a bonus command: the man had only asked for one law and Jesus gave him two.
Nobody would argue the importance of the first law, and at first glance nobody would argue with the second one either. Jesus said that the second command is just like the first: it has equal importance.
“You shall love your neighbor”
This is how we read that verse. Or at least this is how we interpret it.
“Love God, love your neighbor” do those things and you will be just fine.
This is NOT what Jesus said…
He said “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF”
From studying this scripture it means this: love your neighbor to the same degree that you love yourself.
This is the key that I will focus on because Jesus said this is just as important as loving God.
We spend a lot of time in church talking about loving God; actually most of what we talk about stems from loving God. Yet Jesus said this second part is just as important as that part.
The essence of what Jesus said is: You can’t love your neighbor until you love yourself.
Yet this is exactly what so many of us are trying to do. We do so much for other people to show them that we love them, yet inwardly we don’t even love ourselves.
We have a low self image or self worth. We think we are failures and the we’ll never amount to much and therefore we settle for situations that we know we don’t even really want. Some of us might even detest ourselves.
- “I’ll stay in this job I hate because I know I’ll never be able to do better”
- “I’ll marry this person despite the fact that I don’t even think we are in love, I just don’t want to be lonely anymore.”
- “My husband won’t ever love me because I’m not ___ enough” (Pretty, talented, smart, successful, etc.)
- “My wife doesn’t respect me, why should she - after all I knew I’d never amount to much”
These are just a few examples of how people sell themselves short. We’ll have thoughts like these about ourselves which causes us to settle for a quality of life that we wouldn’t even want others to have.
Despite having negative thoughts like these about ourselves, we’re willing to put ourselves out there to try to love others. The problem with this is that Jesus said you’ll only be able to love others as much as you love yourself!
If you don’t love yourself, and you try to love others, you’re looking for a reciprocation of the love you are giving. You are loving with strings attached. As long as you’re getting something out of being loving to others, you’ll continue to do it.
You can only truly love others in the God kind of way when you love yourself. Notice how Jesus loved others even when He was being rejected. When Peter denied Jesus three times, He welcomed him back with an open heart. When people criticized Him for His ministry, He just kept loving and ministering to everyone that He could.
So the task that Jesus gave is to learn how to love ourselves so that we can in turn be able to truly love others as He did.
How do we love ourselves?
Sometimes it’s worth figuring out the opposite side of the solution to help point you to the correct solution. Let’s do that first.
The reason you don’t love yourself is because you know yourself and you see yourself like nobody else does.
- You know your failures that you’ve had.
- You know your imperfections - physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, etc.
- You don’t look the way you want.
- You don’t have the friends you want.
- You struggle with your relationship with God.
You know all these things - things that others don’t even know about.
On top of that, you believe what other people say about you.
I asked a business owner the key to their success: their answer was “Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster”. Say you have 10 happy customers, one or two might tell a somebody why they like your company. Yet 1 angry customer will be much more likely to tell 10 people how much they dislike your company.
Most people thrive on negativity. The same principle from business applies to you personally.
If ten people compliment your style and one person tells you how ugly you are, what will you remember? What will you dwell on? Nearly everybody (unless you’ve learned to do otherwise) will dwell on the negative statement.
This compounds over time resulting in you spending the majority of your time thinking about the negative things that have been said about you instead of the positive.
Over time this adds up to a poor self image, not self worth, and no self love.
You know your mistakes - you’re frequently reminded of them. You know your shortcomings and the qualities that you lack. You know the hurtful things others have said about you. These negative thoughts easily prevail over anything positive in your life.
If you don’t love yourself you are probably trying to find the love that you need from other people. If they disappoint you, your reaction will probably be blown out of proportion because you don’t feel loved again. When you don’t love yourself and you go out trying to love others, you will probably end up being hurt.
To be able to love freely with no strings attached we need to be independent of other people’s love. When this is the case and somebody loves you, it will be a bonus to what you already have, but you won’t collapse without it.
When you love yourself, regardless of what somebody else does (if they love you in return or not) you are still loved because you love yourself.
If you can only love others to the degree that you love yourself then it is more important for you to love yourself first. If somebody tells you that they love you don’t just say “I love you too”… ask them: do you love you? After all they will only be able to love you to the extent that they love themselves.
If they say they love you but they don’t love themselves - they are lying to you!
You might be trying to love somebody and no matter how much love you show them they won’t reciprocate it because they don’t love themselves.
Perhaps you went into a relationship looking for love, because you needed to be loved. If that’s true, then they can control and manipulate you because they can take back their love at any time.
You don’t marry for love - you marry because you are already loved and you want to share that love with somebody.
We should now at least begin to grasp the importance of loving yourself.
How do we get self love?
- Self love comes from discovering who we are.
- Discovering who we are we will give us our value and worth.
- To know our value and our worth we need to know our source.
- Knowing our source will lead us to our purpose.
- Knowing your purpose will give you confidence.
Value and worth come from your source: if you take gold, no matter what you do to it or turn it into - it always maintains its value.
You can make it filthy but if you heat it up and melt it down - it turns right back to into its original form. It doesn’t matter if you break it in half, turn it into powder, or put it in the trash: it’s value never changes.
What is your source? Or more importantly: Who is your source?
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Our source is love - if you don’t know your source you won’t won’t be able to love yourself or others.
In Him is your direction and your purpose:
Psalm 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
Look at Jesus
- Jesus never spoke negatively about Himself.
- He never accepted anybody’s opinion about Himself.
- He knew who He was .
- He knew what His purpose was.
Jesus knew his source:
John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
He knew who he was:
- John 6:35 I am the bread of life
- John 8:12 I am the light of the world
- John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved
- John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
- John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
- John 15:1 I am the true vine
- John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life.
Nothing could take him from his purpose. When Peter came to Jesus to tell Him that he need not go to the cross this was His response:
Matthew 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
What does the Bible say about who you are?
- I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
- I am complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).
- I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
- I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
- I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).
- I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).
- I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).
- I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
- I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
- I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
- I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).
As you discover your source, and who/what He says you are, you will be able to love yourself. Once you are able to love yourself, you will be able to love others the way God loves us.