Our Neighbors, Our Selves


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 130; 148, Isaiah 65:17-25, 1 Tim. 5:(1-16) 17-22 (23-25), Mark 12:28–34

When the Jewish scribes asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, he replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” He also volunteered the second most important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The scribes hadn’t asked him for the top two, so he probably felt strongly about how we love our neighbors. We should note that in this statement is an implicit assumption that we do indeed love ourselves. As Christians, we are not always comfortable expressing a healthy love of self.

When we proclaim “I love my neighbor!” most people approve that sentiment. If we proclaim just as boldly “I love myself!” we can expect considerably less enthusiasm. If God wants us to love our neighbors extravagantly, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doesn’t logic say God wants us to love ourselves just as extravagantly? God loves us as much as he loves our neighbors. Should we do less?

Sadly, overt love of self is often dismissed as pride. We are allowed to celebrate the gifts and talents of others, but expected to be unnecessarily demure about our own. Why wouldn’t we celebrate the gifts and talents our Creator has bestowed upon us? We don’t want to boast or elevate ourselves above others, but neither do we want to engage in self-talk that tells us we are less worthy, less beautiful, or less loved in our creator’s eyes than is anyone else. Quite the opposite: if we are to love others as God commands, we must understand what it is to be loved.

Sometimes loving ourselves means being honest about our own shortcomings, but in a way that builds us up rather than tears us down. For instance, if we need to improve our health we don’t do it by telling ourselves how terrible we are, but by recognizing our bodies are divine gifts that deserve the proper care and maintenance. Loving ourselves means unashamedly appreciating the gifts we have, and doing our best to honor and tend them.

Comfort: God wants us to love ourselves, because God loves us.

Challenge: Make a list of qualities you like about yourself.

Prayer: God of Strength, thank you for all my gifts. Amen.

Discussion: Are you able to accept compliments with grace?

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