"But First You Have To Love Yourself"
The occasion of that gem was my driving Peg to the office this morning, and our passing by the sign at the Golden Rule BBQ. It's one of those that has little movable letters in it, and it said simply ROMANS 13:9. Something about loving your neighbor as yourself. Peg had grabbed her bible and looked it up, read it, and then said "But first, you have to love yourself".
Hmmm .... I told her she'd flung a craving on me and I was going to have to write about it.
For more years than I can count I have heard things like the couple which follow, which were bandied about as truths:
1) We were to love others with "AGAPE love", which means self-sacrificing.
2) We have to love folks but not necessarily like them.
Now the effects I saw, in the church, of those two goodies were that folks would go out of their way to do something for someone who needed it, but frequently avoid them otherwise. And do that while smiling through gritted teeth. Well, I don't think that's what God intends at all. We somehow feel that, if we can sacrifice (which word, I think, means nothing more than taking something you have that you can use for your own purposes, and use it for someone else's, instead) for someone, that we're loving them with Agape love. I mean, otherwise, how could we gossip about people we're supposed to show love for, say after we've done something for them that we think is a sacrifice, especially when it's a juicy bit we're propounding? Is that agape love?
Nope; I don't think so. So I went to my computer Bible and checked the word "love" in that passage and here's what Strong and Thayer said it meant:
1) used of persons: to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
2) used of things: to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing
perhaps from agan (much); to love (in a social or moral sense):
So I got to thinking ... Thayer's saying it's involving the heart ... be fond of ... Strong's saying (my conclusion about that social or moral sense phrase) it's the sort of love that carries with it obligations. But it is still LOVE and we KNOW what that means. Unless, that is, we're re-defining it to fit our preferences as to who we want to like or dislike.
Well now. I can identify with that. I feel that way about my family. Loving, and I'll do whatever it takes to protect and serve and help them; more than I'd do for any other hooman beens walking around earth right now.
So preachers listen up: if you see me around and you want to preach about loving your neighbor, meaning we do if we simply are willing to help them, you're in for an argument.
LOVING BUT NOT LIKING: I don't want Jesus to feel that way about me, so I cannot live that way down here. Or tell somebody else it's OK.
SO: Loving yourself. Hmmm ... what does THAT really mean? My take is that we really, really have to come to grips with what we're really like, what Jesus is really, really like, and then replace our view of ourselves with the view Jesus has, of us.
That's a tall order. But God likes tall orders, and stands willing to fulfill them in our lives if we're willing. Occasionally even when we're not.
God's (and Jesus') view of us is exactly what is told in the Bible. On a personal level. Individually. Not like the Rock Star shouting "I love you guys" to thousands of fans. Nope, Jesus' love is up close and personal. And it is that, transcendent of our shortcomings. Love regardless. Love unconditional.
How else could He willingly have died for me while I was yet a sinner? He sees us a singularly undeserving of His love, but He loves us anyway. That's not a fact to be checked off in our self-evaluation, it's a real truth to be embraced by your heart. For only that way will we ever be able to let that love show through us, to others.
When we comprehend that and make it more than just a knee-jerk mantra that pops out when called for, we have a chance of seeing ourselves through loving eyes. And perhaps then we'll be able to love ourselves as Christ does.
In fact, maybe we'll even be able to love ourselves as we love our neighbors.
Disclaimer: I did a lousy job explaining this as I am having difficulty putting what all is chasing around in here down in words. Just meditate (ponder) what that sign said, though, and what all that means in your life.