Posted by: Dan | June 27, 2004

Loving Self?

I've often been puzzled by the command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Why is the “love yourself” part included? I've heard several speakers suggest that it means we should think of others the way we think of ourselves, appealing to the fact that we are all fallen and are often selfish, wanting only the best for ourselves. So, they say, we should want the best for others. They then go on to point out how self-love is then the first step toward loving others. If you don't love yourself then you can't love others.

That's never really made too much sense to me. I mean, if our journey with Christ is about surrender, and sacrifice why would something based on selfishness be the foundation of one of our central commandments? And then I realized that maybe Jesus means that commandment exactly the other way around. Maybe he means that the grace we show to others should also be the grace by which we view ourselves. For a long time I struggled with accepting God's forgiveness for my sins. I was able to forgive others but I always felt guilty, always felt like I was somehow worse. I think what Jesus is saying is that we need to recognize that we live under the same grace that we extend to others. That means that we come to the exact opposite conclusion: loving others is the first step toward accepting ourselves. If we don't love others we can't love ourselves.

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Responses

  1. “…why would something based on selfishness be the foundation of one of our central commandments?”

    I disagree that loving yourself refers to our inherent selfishness. We should love ourselves and that’s a good thing. We are all precious in God’s sight, and we need to know that (and I’m sure you agree). And since that’s a good thing, we should love others in the same way. It means acknowledging that everyone else is also precious in God’s sight and then acting like it.

    You have an excellent point with your second paragraph. Sometimes people do have a hard time loving themselves properly. This particular verse isn’t the one that backs that up, though. The verse reads “Others as Ourselves,” not “Ourselves as Others.”


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