“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)
How do we “love our neighbour as ourselves”? That is a very important question to consider since Jesus commands us to do this.
Some teachers say that Jesus commands us to love ourselves in this verse. Actually, Jesus here commands us to love our neighbours and tells us to love them as much as we love ourselves. So, loving ourselves is neither commanded or commended. It is just noted that we do love ourselves and that fact is to modify how much we love others.
In 2 Timothy 3:2-4 we read that a time was to come when people will be lovers of themselves more than lovers of God. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25
“Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”
So, loving oneself can be dangerous if we are not careful.
In looking at Exodus 20:12-17 we find that the last six of the ten commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbours. Reading them over is very instructive.
In loving others, we often need to put their interests above our own. For example, parental love is self-sacrificing. Loving our aging parents means we may need to financially deny ourselves to care for their needs.
In speaking about supporting the needy neighbour, C.S. Lewis wrote: “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
If we are to imitate our Saviour, we will need to deny ourselves as He denied Himself in order to serve the needs of others.
Do you love others more than yourself? Is your self-love interfering with your efforts to help others?
Remember that we need to behave in a manner like the Good Shepherd who loved us and gave Himself for us. Go and love your neighbour today.