Love Yourself As Your Neighbor - Week 2
Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:31
You’ve experienced it or its derivative, the Golden Rule, hundreds, even thousands of times. In sermons, on decorative plaques, t-shirts, everywhere. But do you understand it.
I mean REALLY understand it.
I’m sure you think you do. It is, after all, a simple concept, something to decorate children’s rooms. But, do people really understand it?
I don’t think people do, at least not the way God means it and, even if they do, most people don’t practice it, not really.
If we really understood it, practiced it, we’d have a major decrease in depression, self harm, suicide, stress, road rage and toxicity in general.
This “simple” statement is so much deeper and far reaching than you think.
A look at its context will support my claims.
The passage containing it is Mark 12:28-31.
A man comes to Jesus and asks what is the greatest commandment. What is the one thing he has to do to please God? If he does only one thing right in his life, what one thing will please God the most.
Jesus answered that the greatest commandment is “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
BUT, Jesus doesn’t stop there. Without a pause, without waiting for another question, Jesus immediately states, “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Can we pause here and think about this? These are the two greatest commandments.
Greater than sacrifice, than observing certain days, than charity or prayer or anything else. They are the greatest commands because they take care of everything.
If you follow them, truly follow them, you will live a Godly life.
If you love God, you will obey Him. You will follow Him. You will strive to please Him.
If you love others as ourselves, as God commands, you will not hurt them or stand by and let them be hurt. AND you will not hurt yourself.
Think about it. That sentence contains an equal sign, not a greater than sign.
The way we treat others = The way we treat ourselves
It does not say treat others better than yourself. It does not say treat yourself better than others. It says treat others as you treat yourself and treat yourself as you would treat others.
But, so often, we don’t treat ourselves the way we treat others.
Here’s the source of so much depression, burn outs, self harm, self hate and risky behavior.
We don’t love ourselves.
We take care of other people but not ourselves. So many times, we are forgiving and
encouraging of others when they make mistakes but are harsh and judgemental of any mistake we make. We excuse others’ actions because they’re tired or they need a break but we won’t give ourselves the same leniency.
I know we do it because I’ve done it. I’ve used words and insults against myself I would never use against another. I have called myself things that I would never call another. I have often held myself to impossible standards I did not hold others to and then despise myself for failing.
When others are stressed, I will regularly remind them to get rest, take care of themselves, practice self care. I’ll get them a treat to cheer them up or tell them a joke.
When others feel worthless, I will do my best to convince them they’re not.
But, for myself, in the past, if I was stressed and worn out? I would mock myself. I would mentally yell at myself, angrily tell myself to stop whining and stop being lazy. I would rage at myself if I made a mistake, tear myself down and tell myself I was a failure. I even told myself I was worthless.
This abuse of myself only stopped when I read and began to really understand this passage, to really understand that the command “Love your neighbors as yourself” was also a command to love myself.
If you are hating or mistreating your neighbor, then you are in violation of God’s second greatest command.
If you are hating yourself or mistreating yourself then you are being just as disobedient.
To love others the way God intended you have to love yourself as God intended.
To love others is to show them compassion and patience even when correcting them. To love them means to forgive them. But, if you are to love others as yourself, then you have to show yourself this same love, the same compassion and patience as you try to correct your mistakes and weaknesses, to forgive yourself even as you pay the consequences of a mistake.
Self-care is not selfish. It is a command. Care for yourself as you would care for others.
We even have an example of self care in Jesus. There are many times He retreated from the crowds and even from the Apostles to rest, pray and renew Himself.
Luke 5:16 “But Jesus withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Matthew 14:23 “After He had set the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.”
The night before the worst time in His life, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, again, retreats from everyone to pray and seek comfort.
Jesus was the one human who achieved perfection, who lived a perfect life, and even He needed time to retreat, to rest, to renew Himself, to take care of HImself.
It is not selfish to treat yourself kindly. It is not selfish to protect yourself from mistreatment the same way you would protect others. It is not wrong to take care of yourself as you take care of others. It is scriptural.
Love your God. Love your neighbors. Love yourself. And everything else falls into place.