What does it mean to love someone as you love yourself? Of all the things in the bible I struggle to understand, this one has vexed me the most…
Last night, in biblestudy, this topic reared its (erm…) misunderstood head and I got to thinking – we usually do love ourselves even without thinking much about it. We love ourselves so much that there’s nothing we wont do for ourselves. But like most things true to how we are, it’s not the right kind of self-love. How then do we rightly love self, so we can rightly love others in the same way?
When one goes to the bible for answers, we often tend to appreciate the plain-to-see-move-along ones that nobody disputes or gets confused about. Don’t be creepin’. Don’t be disrespectin’. Don’t be bustin’ a cap in anybody’s…posterior. Then there are the answers that take time and time and lots of reading and time to figure out. Try finding answers to when to divorce someone. Try applying those to every situation and see how confusing things get. What about respecting the wishes of ungodly parents or husbands…Loving oneself is one of these sherlock answers, albeit the basis of the gospel.
The story of the bible, the whole bible, is about how God sticks us in a perfectly desirable situation, we sin, He punishes us and then saves us. Throughout all of this, He still loves us, despite how our actions may incite His righteous anger. We are really crumby bipeds, and yet He loves us. The only redeeming feature in our relationship with Him is that he does love us in spite of ourselves. The only way, therefore, that we can love ourselves is because of how He loves us.
With all of this in mind, how can we love others? Because of how He loves them! Jesus’ command to love our neighbor is a call to think of them in heaven’s terms – to see them through heaven’s eyes. Sinners that need gracious, unequivocal love. Can we love them without liking them? My honest (and somewhat unpopular answer) is no. How do you get to know someone without liking them? How do you lovingly care for someone if you don’t know them and their needs? The Lord has put them in your life, and you know how you aught to love them, so like ’em to boot, and half the job is done!