“…Love your neighbor as yourself.” ~Matthew 22:39
How well we love others depends on two very important things. The first is how we define love. What does love mean to us? The second is how well we actually love ourselves. There is one particularly well known scripture which defines love from God’s point of view. 1 Corinthians 13 has been recited the world over. These scriptures are the embodiment of Christ, into whose image we are conforming as God spiritually renews our minds. This scripture basically says without love we have nothing, and it’s pretty clear regarding what love is and what it isn’t. But do we actually define everyday love this way? Do we love ourselves the 1 Corinthians 13 way? If not, how can we possibly give away love we have not even given to ourselves?
When folks talk about true love, I don’t think 1 Corinthians 13 love is the kind of love they’re usually thinking about. The concept of love has been watered down or romanticized by popular culture. The world’s idea of love is typically based on feelings. But love is not a feeling. Love is a decision to understand another. It’s a choice that transcends the boundaries of our temperamental human emotions. The word love in scripture is based on the Greek word, Agape. Agape is divine love, God’s love. It is unconditional and full of goodwill. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This kind of love, which Jesus modeled for us, is not born of the flesh. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit are we able to love others as God loves us. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23). Apart from the Holy Spirit, our idea of love is conditional and emotionally driven. This isn’t the kind of love God has for us, nor should we have for others or for ourselves.
God’s commandment to love others as we love ourselves begins within us. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”(Ephesians 5:29) We cannot give someone that which we haven’t given to ourselves. How can we love others as we love ourselves if we don’t really love ourselves? The love we should have for ourselves must be viewed through God’s eyes. Self-love is seeing ourselves as God sees us and loving ourselves as God loves us. When self-love is absent within us, the love we give is often fractured and complicated by our own brokenness and inner turmoil. This is why we must allow God to restore what’s broken within us so He can repair what’s broken between us and other people. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12) If we are to love others as Jesus did, we simply cannot hope to do this without God’s help. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and this includes loving ourselves and other people. As this 30-day devotional draws to a close tomorrow, may we remember, our willingness to allow God’s love to mature within us, is key to manifesting heaven on earth. If our heart is poisoned by unforgiveness, resentment,fear, trauma, insecurity, etc., we will miss the mark God has set before us in 1 Corinthians 13 and throughout scripture. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Jesus has already shown us the way we should go, and He left us the Holy Spirit so we can get there. May we all discover true self-love, which once born within us, can be shared with the world around us. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” (James 2:8)
Prayer: Father, I worship and adore you. You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Thank you for loving me so deeply and passionately. Help me to embody your love so I may learn to love others the way you love me. May I see myself the way you see me. May I see others the way you see them. Help me to remember that without love I have nothing. Without love, I don’t have you. Holy Spirit, teach me how to love God’s way. In Jesus’ wonderful name I pray. Amen.