“Love your neighbor as yourself…He was saying I would never talk to my neighbor the way I talked to myself, and that somehow I had come to believe that it was wrong to kick other people around but it was okay to do it to myself.”
I just finished reading the 19th chapter in Blue Like Jazz about how to really love yourself. It is amazing that I never looked at how I love myself. For my entire life I have striven to follow God’s greatest command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I have tried (and failed many times) to look at others with love first and then with judgment. I have found my passion in the physical act of loving people who are oppressed and impoverished and sick. Even in the more “secular” sense, I have striven to treat others how I want to be treated. But now I think there is a reason God did not word his command in the same way that the world words its own golden-rule. In the world, I am supposed to treat others how I want them to treat me. Ultimately, my own actions depend on what I hope others will do in return – I treat others well so that they will treat me well. But in God’s world I am supposed to love others how I love myself. That means I have to take the initiative first and actually accept God's love for me. I can live and love sacrificially only because Christ did it first. If I don't allow God to love me how can I expect to love others?
I walk around thinking that it is not right for me to be loved – I have to be humble first, which apparently means that I cannot receive love. But really, isn’t that a bit more like pride in the end? Thinking that somehow I must be above the need for love and acceptance while everyone else needs it? Plus, as Donald Miller puts it, “if it is wrong for me to receive love, then it is also wrong for me to give it because by giving it I am causing somebody else to receive it, which I had presupposed was the wrong thing to do.” Basically, if I am going to believe with all my heart that all people deserve to be loved and treated as beloved creations of God (which I do), then shouldn’t I first have to believe with all my heart that I deserve to be loved and called beloved in the same way? I need to change my thinking. It is not wrong to receive love, it is wrong to believe the lie that I am somehow not worth it. It’s just not healthy. If I want God to change me – if I truly am willing to let Him into my life – I have to accept that He loves me and that He has placed people in my life to love me. And then I have to go love others in a way that understands this love enough to live sacrificially.
“And so I have come to understand that strength, inner strength, comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it. I think apart from the idea that I am a sinner and God forgives me, this is the greatest lesson I have ever learned. When you get it changes you…God’s love will never change us if we don’t accept it.”
Simple enough idea, I guess. But I think it will take me a little while to really understand and find as truth in my own heart.