Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

“The second is this ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31

I find this to be a hard commandment for everyone. There are two reasons for this. But one is a reason you might not think of. You probably have the verse above memorized, but I want to read it closely and think about what is being said. Look closely at the first sentence in that verse. Do you see it, “Love your neighbor as yourself?”

The context of the verse makes it grow in the underlying implication. To summarize the context of the verse, a teacher of the law approaches Jesus and tries to give him a trick question. The teacher asks, “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” In short, Jesus states, “The most important one, the Lord is one, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And he states, “The second is Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”[1]

When Jesus says that, He really is summarizing all of the commandments into two. All of the commandments involve the love of God, other people, and yourself. He just boils it done to its most simple premise. However, I want to notice how He says “there is no greater commandment greater than these.” And take note of that statement. Keep it in mind.

When I think about the phrasing and how Jesus puts Mark 12:31 and the other gospel variances, it becomes a very interesting verse. Jesus could have put the verse of loving your neighbor a different way. However, He specifically says “love your neighbor as yourself.” When you really think about it, this is such a powerful verse. He inserts another party into the equation. It’s not just God and your neighbor. He inserts self-love. He puts the person into the equation. God wants us to love ourselves and it is part of the greatest commandment. He intentionally says that we need to love ourselves.

Christians are not to be about self-hate because God calls us to love ourselves. That means forgiving ourselves and being patient with ourselves. It means having no false humility. By false humility I mean, thinking things that aren’t true about yourself. Thinking lower of yourself than everyone else. Even though you love your neighbor, you are not fulfilling the greatest commandment because you don’t love yourself.

The other take for this verse would be “since I don’t love myself then I don’t have to love my neighbor.” This is wrong and would not fulfill the commandment either. I know this because if we work out the verse backward with everything the bible says about treating others, then we come back to good treatment of others and therefore ourselves. God doesn’t give much instruction on self- love it seems, but the greatest commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.” And through that verse he gives us a hint that if we struggle with loving ourselves the measure is to love ourselves like we were our neighbor. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And it works in reverse.

Do you see now why this little verse is so powerful? It expresses God’s will that if we struggle with loving ourselves that we are to love ourselves like how we love other people.

I will be the first to admit I have this struggle. I’m always harder on myself than other people. I can be downright cruel to myself. I remember sometimes I would make running a punishment for a mistake I made. I remember a few times, I desired to run myself into the ground. To run until I collapsed from exhaustion. And I would punish myself in other ways. However the truth is, God wants me and you to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. He makes it one of the greatest commandments and that itself says a lot.

One method I found that helps in treating myself how I would my neighbor is to picture a friend of mine in the same circumstances and making the same mistakes. And if I would forgive them than what makes me any different in deserving my own forgiveness. My therapist told me in a recent session, to do that when I remember the stupid and insecure things I did when going through the depths of my most recent episode of major depression.

Looking back, I have a lot of regrets and hate some of the things I did. However, if it was any other person I would understand that they were sick and readily forgive them. I would understand that it wasn’t entirely their fault and understand that they weren’t themselves. And that’s the way I have to look at myself when I think about how I pushed others away and how I was also clingy. And also for when I craved comfort to soothe my pain. I need to put someone else in my shoes to understand that it’s okay that I made mistakes.

The struggle of treating myself how I treat others is something I am trying to work on. And most of all, I hope this helped you to try to love yourself more too. Remember God loves you so much, and he wants you to love yourself too.

Until next time,

Ashes

[1] Mark 12: 28-31