Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.
For centuries we have been reading and quoting these two ‘commandments’ and that is fine. One should, above all else, love God first and foremost. One should also love their neighbor— ‘neighbor’ being one’s fellow man—no matter who that might be. There is also a third part to these ‘commandments’, which is grossly overlooked. This third part is the last two words. “…as yourself.”
We talk about the love God has for us and how this should be reciprocated. We talk about how we should love the sinner (which is anyone and everyone) but hate the sin. We talk about loving our enemies, even if we don’t like them, which almost seems like an oxymoron. We talk about showing the love of God, letting God’s love flow through us, being an example of God’s love to others, and countless other Christian clichés about loving others, but we, and those who instruct us, forget one tiny detail. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others?
The “normal” answer for this is – once we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and truly love God with all we are, then that love will permeate our being and flow out of us to others. That still doesn’t account for the fact that we find everything about ourselves to be hideous and repugnant. We still need to find some way to forgive ourselves for what we may have done in the past and accept the person we have, or will, become. That is the one thing that is not taught in our churches. “If God can forgive me, why can’t I?”
Yes, there are scriptures to help with this, such as, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) But that is taken out of context. The condemnation referred to here is man being condemned by God for sin. Once the gift of salvation is accepted, God grants a ‘pardon’ for our sins and wipes the slate clean of any record of sin. The sin stain is gone and we now appear before God as ‘spotless.’ But, when we look in the mirror, we still see the same person with all of our character flaws, past sins, evil desires and so on.
We can run to the altar and tearfully throw ourselves down in sincere repentance, asking for God’s forgiveness until every one of our sins are recounted, relinquished and removed from God’s sight, but, when we are alone with ourselves, we still feel disgust, or even a loathing, for ourselves. So we are back the next week, repenting and sobbing, trying to get the love, forgiveness and acceptance we already have from God, when we are the only ones holding out on us. We know that He knows who we are and what we’ve done, but so do we. And therein lies the rub.
Usually, it is at this point that the Apostle Paul comes to mind saying, “I die daily,” meaning that little by little we are to take off the old man and put on the new. Some, like Paul himself, make an over night transformation, but for the rest of us it is a lifelong process.
Does that mean that we all have to become Christian Clones? At times it seems that way when you talk to some groups of believers. They all act the same, talk the same, and begin to look the same after a short time of being around them. If they are content to be the Stepford believers, then that is fine for them.
But it is our uniqueness that God likes. He created each of us individually, to be individuals, for our individual purpose. The only one we have to try to be like is Jesus, and that doesn’t mean we have to run around with an angelic face, spreading love and joy and peace all the time. We can have a personality of our own. We do have a personality of our own. That personality is what makes you you and God loves you for being you, just as he made you. And all of your past experiences have shaped and molded that personality into who you are today.
So where does all of that leave us on loving ourselves so we can love our neighbors? Let me take a scripture totally out of context and say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If God can forgive and accept us and love us for who we are, then why can’t we? Or better yet, why shouldn’t we? Are we greater than God? Is there any other standard higher than God’s? If we are good enough for God, we ought to be good enough for us!! Realizing that this is not going to be easy for some, if not most, there is just one more thing to say, meant as nicely as possible – Get over yourself. You are who you are and will be whom God created you to be if you quit trying to tell yourself you’re not good enough. If you’re waiting until you’ve arrived, you’re never going to get there. Never stop trying to improve, but realize that there was only one sinless, regretless, perfect man. Chances are that probably isn’t you, but it is a goal to strive for. In the mean time, just relax and know that everyone else was and is a sinner saved by grace. You are the same as everyone else in that respect. Accept yourself for who you are and it will make it easier to accept—and love – others. You are unique, just like everybody.
© Simply Consider This, 2014.