Friday, July 15, 2016

Can you love others without loving self?

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"And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself" - Matthew 22:39.

When the scribes asked Jesus what He thought was the greatest commandment, He answered it was 1) loving God and, 2) loving people, citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18; adding that "On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets" (v 40). We'll focus on the second, that is, loving your neighbour as yourself (your neighbour includes everyone you come across - at work, at school, in church, family members, friends, even strangers, as Jesus taught us in the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37).

Isn't it curious that Jesus said 'you shall love your neighbour AS yourself'? Think about that for a moment... Why would Scripture say 'love your neighbour AS yourself'?

Not just 'you shall love your neighbour', or 'you shall love your neighbour wholeheartedly', or 'you shall love your neighbour sincerely'; no! Rather, to love others AS we love ourselves. But what if I don't love myself? Must I love myself to love others? Hmm... Lots of questions, right?
What does that tell you? Well, it tells me that if you don't love yourself, you are incapable of loving other people!

You can't draw from an empty well, can you?
It's cliché I know, but you really can't give what you don't already have; you can't draw anything out from an empty well, right?

In loving others, you draw out of the store of love in your heart to lavish on them. If you don't love yourself; where then do you draw out love to lavish on others?
It is said that hurting people hurt others; I'll add that people who love others must first love themselves.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible explains it perfectly:
"This law supposes, that men should love themselves, or otherwise they cannot love their neighbour..." indeed!
Continuing, it says: "...not in a sinful way, by indulging themselves in carnal lusts and pleasures; some are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; but in a natural way, so as to be careful of their bodies, families, and estates; and in a spiritual way, so as to be concerned for their souls, and the everlasting happiness of them: and in like manner should men love their neighbours, in things temporal do them all the good they can, and do no injury to their persons or property; and in things spiritual - pray for them, instruct them, and advise as they would their own souls, or their nearest and dearest relations. And this is to be extended to every man..."

Loving self and loving others are like thoroughfares that lead to each other
Loving self and loving others are like co-joined twins, where you see one, you'll find the other.
If you see someone who truly loves others, such one loves himself, too. They are like thoroughfares that lead to the other.

What then does it mean to love self?
Many think loving self is making themselves happy at all cost or enjoying the pleasures and good things of life. It may include that, but that's not what defines love for self.
Loving yourself is more than liking what you see when you look in the mirror!
Loving yourself is more than taking 120 selfies and staring at them with glee all day!
Loving yourself is more than spending large sums on yourself to 'look good'!
Loving yourself is more than 'giving yourself a nice treat'!
Loving yourself is not trying to satisfy your lustful pleasures, to make yourself 'happy'.
Loving yourself is not giving in to all your cravings!
Loving yourself is not a 'happy by all means' lifestyle, no! It may include some of these, but that's not what it is!

Love is simply DOING what is BEST for the individual concerned (yourself or others), regardless of the circumstances.
It is a decision to DO what is BEST, in spite of possible pain and/or difficulty.
Loving yourself, therefore, is doing what is BEST for you, whether in the short or long term, no matter how hard or painful it may be.

What loving self entails
Loving yourself sometimes involves pushing through the pain barrier - because that's what's BEST for you!
Loving yourself involves waking up at odd hours to study, prepare, pray, burn the midnight candle, work tirelessly - because that's what's BEST for you!
Loving yourself involves denying yourself some luxuries, saving that money instead for the rainy day - because that's what's BEST for you, now and in the long term!
Loving yourself involves making sacrifices today that'll lead to success tomorrow.

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Love for self and others flows from love for God
"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" - Romans 5:5 (NKJV).

Again, you can't give what you do not have; there has to be a store of love in your heart for you to spread same to others.

In God, we have the capacity to love sincerely, wholly and perfectly like He does - the kind of love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
His love is POURED OUT (that is, given without measure) in our hearts by His Spirit. It's like God opened up a reservoir of love and let it pour out in our hearts. Picture that! In Him, you have the capacity to love.

The degree to which you know God is the degree to which you people
Is it possible to love the creator and not love the creature which shares His likeness and nature? Is it possible to love the inventor and not love the invention which is pretty much like Him?

1 John 4:7-8 says: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; for everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Dr. Myles Munroe put it perfectly in one of his messages I love: "Any ministry (church body) or believer who has no interest in people need to re-check their salvation". That hit the bull's-eye right there - you can't know God more than you love the people created in His image (who share His traits, nature, and likeness!) and whom He loves to bits!

Loving people is the manifestation of your knowledge of God.
Loving people is the physical evidence that you're growing spiritually and becoming conformed to the image of God (Romans 8:29).

You can miraculously develop wings and be able to soar higher than eagles in the sky, yet if you do not love, you're all but a noisy gong, a creaking rusty gate, like clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). You are like an expensively decorated container containing trash!

So, again: can you love others without loving yourself? Nah, it's like trying to sing along to a song you don't know. Imagine that! (I guess you can dance to it though).

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