The Western Christian Community really loves the 10 Commandments. We like to put in front of governmental buildings--for some reason. We base our laws and the way we vote around the them. I get it. It really simplifies things. Here are 10 rules. Follow them. Jesus simplified things even further.
When Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. This was His response:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40 ESV)
In a way that only Jesus can, he just simplified faith while simultaneously making things more complicated.
What this tells me is that I’ve got a job to do. The second most important thing--these two commandments on which my entire faith and spirituality rest--is that I need to love you as I love myself. That’s a tall order.
Whenever I contemplate the vastness of those verses, the huge weight that is placed on doing those things, I always come to the following conclusion: I hope I’m loving myself well.
I have a job to do. I need to love my neighbor as myself, it’s something God asks of me. And that means that I need to love myself well. I have me to practice with all the time and, if I’m not doing a good job with me, I’m not going to do a good job with you.
When people don’t love themselves well, it manifests--in my experience--two different ways. Either, I will view everyone around me as a project that needs to be fixed, pointing out all of their flaws and doing what I can to rectify them, or, I will view everyone around me as mini gods who can do no wrong, are perfect in every way, and need me to worship them.
Those are both shitty forms of love, and they don’t do very much good.
I’m thinking about the past 2 years and this crazy election and the division that happened and the amount of contentiousness that arose and I’m left considering that we didn’t do such a good job practicing self love. Both choices felt like the result of self-loathing.
So, the question remains: what does it look like when someone loves themselves well?
Thankfully, The Bible provides a pretty comprehensive look.
Love is patient and kind
People who love themselves well recognize the fact that they are on a journey. They don’t see a failing as a destination, but rather, a part of the process. So many times, we beat ourselves up because we aren’t where we want to be. But self-love is patient and recognizes the progress being made.
And love is kind. This one is hard. I’m hard on myself. I call myself names I would never say to anyone else. I have hurt myself in ways I wouldn’t dare even think about doing to someone else. I’ve called myself ugly and arrogant and a smartass. But, loving yourself well, means being kind: being kind to your body, to your journey, to being the way God made you.
Love does not envy or boast it; it is not arrogant 5 or rude.
When you practice self-love, you start to recognize your journey as your own and no one else’s. When you see your journey as your own, it becomes difficult and foreign to envy other’s. My own journey is wonderful and my own. And that recognition also makes boasting seem silly. I’m proud of my accomplishments, but I don’t need to lord them over someone who’s journey looks different.
It does not insist on its own way
Love trusts Love. I have to trust the path set in front of me by God.
it is not irritable or resentful
When things don’t turn out the way that we’re expecting them to, a person who practices self-love will choose kindness.
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
A person who loves themselves well is patient and kind with themselves, but also celebrates The Truth and is excited for the moments of truth and breakthrough when they happen. People who love themselves well are not content to stay in their wrongdoing, but always look forward to greater truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Plain and simple--people who love themselves well are the kinds of people I want to be around. Their hope is infectious. They carry a light within themselves and they believe and strive toward a better world.
And that is what Jesus asked us to be. That’s the person I want to be all the time. And I’m not there, except when I am. And I’m getting better at being this person all the time.
If you’re wondering where this comes from--how to be this effective person--the answer is found in The First Commandment. “...love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
1st John 4:19 says that “We love because He first loved us.”
By the way, as an aside, John loved himself well. He calls himself essentially “Jesus’ favorite” within his own gospel and then spends his epistles calling us “little children.” His epistles feel like hugs to me.
We become better at loving ourselves and loving each other whenever we give ourselves over to God. Bathing in His presence reminds me of how much I am loved. It may not be the exciting part of being a person of faith. It’s not the part that wows people.
“I prayed for a whole bunch of people last night.”
“God told me He loved me a whole bunch last night.”
Which one seems holier? I know what the obvious answer is. But Paul is so clear about this. If we do all the stuff and are without love, then it’s worthless.
And I truly believe that all the good stuff will come from coming into contact with God.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I cannot think of a time in The Bible when God sent Himself or an agent of Heaven to an individual to let them know they’re a piece of shit.
It’s always to release identity, to shift perspective back toward The Creator who has wanted you since the beginning of time. And then those people go on to release who they are and do incredible things.
God had a dream, and he put skin around it and called it You. What’s not to love?