Thursday, May 18, 2017

Love Yourself

This week, we're talking about ways that the Bible would be different if it were written today from our modern theology, and here's one that has become so popular that most of us probably don't even recognize it any more for the distortion that it is:

Love your neighbor as yourself has somehow become a modern commandment to simply love yourself

We've so picked apart this verse, so twisted and turned it, that we think it means that we cannot love others if we do not first love ourselves, and therefore, our primary task in life is to learn to love ourselves. 

Forget that He said As I have loved you, you must love one another.

No, forget all that. Forget that Jesus also teaches the Golden Rule, that we should do unto others what we would want them to do unto us, which is about being considerate, thoughtful, honoring, and not at all about figuring out what it is that we want from the world and then putting it out there, as though Christ were teaching some form of karma. (He's not.)

Forget that Paul teaches us, in beautiful language, what love really is - it is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it keeps no record of wrongs, etc. - without ever once saying that love considers itself or that it comes from a place of tremendous self-adoration. Forget that John said, We love because He first loved us.

Forget it! For many a modern Christian, this depth of the theology of love matters not. What we hear is, Love your neighbor as yourself, and what we take away from that is that we must first learn to love ourselves.

It's just not so. That's not at all what Jesus said, not at all what His audience would have heard. What they would have heard is that this is the second command, and it is predicated on the first - that we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And so loving our neighbor is not about loving ourselves; it's about loving our God.

That's what we have to figure out first. Figure out how to love God, and you will know how to love your neighbor.

You will know how to love your neighbor because you will see in him, and in you, the very image of the God that you love. You will see in your neighbor the image of your beloved God, and you will not be able to help yourself. You will see your neighbor's strength, grace, dignity, mercy, the very reflection of the living God who formed man in His own image with His own hand and endowed him with His own holy breath. And you will see in yourself (this is where "yourself" comes in) the image of the Lover. You will know that you've been created in His own love, to be love in this world.

Figure out how to love God, and you will not have to learn to love yourself; you won't be able to help it. You will look in the mirror and see the image of God in you, and you will know yourself as beloved of Him and in the same breath, in the image of His love. Figure out how to love God, and you will not have to learn to love your neighbor; you won't be able to help it.

That's what all this means. That's what all of this has always meant, what God intended it to mean. This second greatest commandment is not predicated on itself, that God would have commanded you to love yourself. That's not it at all. It's predicated on the first, that you should love God.

Love God, and you will love your neighbor.

Love yourself, and you will likely love neither.

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