“Love your neighbor as yourself”… it’s not new. Whether you grew up in the church or not, we’ve heard at one point or another this phrase. You can’t have the New Testament without having the Old Testament… that’s where “loving your neighbor as yourself” came from. Leviticus—the most difficult book, to me, to get through in reading the Bible through in year—19:18 after an explanation of how to treat your ‘neighbor’ says, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Several verses later in verses 33-34 it’s mentioned again, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Now don’t ask me why it always ends with “I am the Lord”—several of the verses do and I haven’t studied why, so moving right along… Leviticus is the only book that gives the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then Jesus came—Love Himself—in physical form in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give the same answer to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” and “How do I inherit eternal life?”: in simple terms, Love God with absolutely all that you are—heart, soul, strength, mind…EVERYTHING—and love your neighbor as yourself. If you follow those two, the other commands are bi-products.
I know, it sounds—or looks really—like I’m rambling… maybe… BUT
Just like you can’t have the New Testament without the Old Testament, how do you love your neighbor without loving yourself? How do you love yourself without knowing Love Himself and the love He has for you? In John before Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to deny him, he leaves the disciples with a new commandment, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus reiterates it again after introducing this new commandment a couple “chapters”—we know Jesus didn’t speak in chapters lol—later in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” This chapter is bursting with His love! He had to get the point across to his disciples! The disciples at this point has spent lots of time with Jesus, doing life with Him, so when Jesus said “just as I have loved you” they new what that meant and yet they still didn’t know that they were soon going to witness the biggest act of love history would ever see. But y’all, knowing how Jesus loved them was the precursor to being able to love one another… being able to love their neighbor. Jesus lived love before them, He displayed His love for them, for humanity SO THAT they could know what love looked like—love in action. Before we can love our neighbor as ourselves, before we can love others as He has and does love us, we have to love ourselves and, therefore, we have to know His love for us. We can’t put the cart before the horse, or we will continue to royally screw up loving our neighbor. We just blend in… and that’s not what we’re called to do. Love is what makes us stand out—“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This has been heavy on my heart over the last several weeks. However, the seed that took root came from a journey that started April 3rd of this year… a daily journey that was called “Learning to Love Me”. Every day, God had me write a Reason to Love myself. So many times we know in our minds that God loves us, but when we get to knowing in our hearts we sometimes question it. We live in a society of not good enough, not tall enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, just not enough. And yet at the same time, we’ve been swindled into thinking that to love you is to be selfish or arrogant or haughty… but that’s not love at all. The love chapter… 1 Corinthians 13:4-(the 1st sentence of) 8 gives us the definition of love… “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with he truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” If that’s how God—since He IS Love—thinks and feels about and towards us, why do we feel we it’s haughty to look at ourselves in the same manner? Instead, we listen to the lies media shouts and allow them to sink in… and then some call it humility. If God says I’m His beautiful daughter, child of the King, why listen to the lies of media? Shoot! They don’t know me!
Father, help us to see ourselves through Your eyes of truth, of love, of Your grace. Heal the heart wounds that have put scales over our eyes and blinded our vision to see truth. God help us to hear and obey and believe and trust and hope in and walk in YOUR truth and not the lies of media, of well-meaning family members, of enemies, and of any one else that has spoken words like daggers that have wounded our hearts. Give us the strength to confront our wounds that have been suppressed to avoid pain and swept under the rug. Teach us, Lord, what it is, Your vast, unconditional, incomparable, irrevocable, relentless love. You love us deep, God. Help us heart-know that… not just head-know. Bring restoration, peace, and healing, Father.
I’m going to step out on a limb and say this: you cannot love your neighbor, truly love your neighbor as we have been called to do until you love yourself; and you cannot love yourself until you know His love for you, until the jaded glasses are removed and replaced with truth. I’m also going to say that words are always easier said than done. No, I don’t have 5 steps to learning to love yourself. I don’t have 5 steps to knowing He loves you. Countless reasons? Absolutely! Does His love and how completely and deeply He loves me makes sense? Absolutely NOT. I won’t call God crazy, but you get the point. The cool thing is though… I don’t have to understand why He loves me… I won’t understand how. But there is a difference between understanding why and how and having all the answers to the questions and just simply knowing that just as much as I will never see or know what truly lies beneath the ocean’s surface into the great abyss, I will never be able to fully wrap my mind around the love He has for me, His love that makes the great abyss look like the kiddie pool at Schlitterbahn.
To love yourself is to truly get to know who you really are, not through your own eyes, but through His. We focus enough on our flaws and shortcomings… start seeking out the positive attributes in yourself, look for the gifts that God has placed in you. When you stop looking only at the negative, you’re able to see some light. You’re able to see Him more clearly, drawing closer to Him. And the closer you get to Him, the more He transforms you and those negative things that may very well be present can’t help but be transformed too.
In as many directions as I feel this went, take this: He loves you deep. Deeper than you can ever imagine, fathom, calculate, comprehend, understand. He love you because He love you because He loves you. We may not deserve it, but we are worth it. Accept it. Let it transform your entire being… the way you think, the way you feel, express, communicate, react, the way you live and love. Accept|walk in|live in His love, love you—wonderful, purposed, wanted, God-created you—so you can love others like He loves you.
Over & out. ❤
It is such a pleasure to have Charis as a guest… she was so willing to share her thoughts and wisdom. Here is a little about our new friend.
Charis is currently gaining her MS in Counseling at a lovely university in Texas, originally form the great state of LA. She has been celebrating the married life since 2013. She brings joy and light everywhere she goes!
To quote her describing herself and her life…”Laughing is daily. Smiling is a must. Coffee is my caffeine of choice. Love is more than a feeling. And Jesus is my life. I’m Charis!”
To find more of her writing check out: http://allduetograce.blogspot.com/