You can’t love others well until you love yourself.
How many times have you seen those words on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter lately? Lots?
I tried to embrace my inner Elsa and “Let it go,” but that wasn’t working for me. So, I did some studying to make sure I’m not just being contrary and I learned the…
Truth About Loving Yourself and Others
If you look at the Shema (the central prayer and command of the Jewish faith, pronounced “shmah” and found in Deuteronomy 6:4–9) you’ll find:
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
When Jesus was asked about the Greatest Commandment, He added to the command to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” the words “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:37–39 and Mark 12:29:31.
And that’s the source for the commonly held belief that we can’t love our neighbors well until we learn to love ourselves.
The problem is . . . I don’t believe Jesus was talking about warm fuzzy feel good about yourself love at all and I don’t think the people who heard Him at the time thought that either.
In Luke 10, Jesus asks a religious leader—an “expert in the law” and someone who had obviously heard Jesus teach on the Shema before what the law of Moses said was the “way to eternal life.”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:29
Then the man asks, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. You can read it in Luke 10:30–37.
Jesus wasn’t telling him to feel good about himself and help others feel good themselves too. He was pointing out the importance of taking care of each other. I think the Priest and the Temple Assistant who walked by the injured Jewish man felt just fine about themselves. But they didn’t stop to take care of him. The Samaritan did that.
I’ve learned the more I think about myself, good or bad, the less I do for others and the worse I feel about myself. It’s funny isn’t it?
[Tweet “God hardwired us to love each other by helping each other, and in the process we feel better too.”]
You and I get up in the morning from a comfortable bed in a safe home. We eat throughout the day and take care of our health. We make sure our needs and even some of our wants are met every day. And too often like the Priest and the Temple Assistant we look the other way when we see someone who’s doing without.
On Day 1 McKnight challenges his readers to “recite the Jesus Creed throughout the day.” The Jesus Creed is Jesus version of the Shema:
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29–31
I’m taking the challenge. Will you join me?
May the Lord bless you this week as you love Him and love others as you love yourself.