Love your neighbor as yourself – Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. What does that look like? Are we to love ourselves first before we can love our neighbors? A big part of our problem is learning how to love yourself for who you are.
How many of us struggle with loving ourselves? Honestly I doubt myself more than anything. I regret decisions I have made in the past and it is so easy to beat myself up over bad choices.
I struggle to love myself. Is that why I struggle to love my neighbors?
I have witnessed others who I feel love themselves too much. Everything is about themselves, it’s is always me, me, me… They seem to have the idea that they don’t need anyone else and everyone else is second priority.
Do I really want to love myself like that? No – it seems selfish, anti-christian in nature, so much unlike the self giving attitude that Christ displayed. When we seek to learn to love ourselves as Christ commands then we must learn from Christ how to do this.
What is Love?
Before we can love our neighbors we must learn what real love is. I confess that early on in life love was some feeling we had for others. The trouble with that concept of love is that feelings change with circumstances and time. When we base our love for ourselves or others we set ourselves up for failure.
Psychology informs us that “Love is a complex set of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person.” Love does indeed involve our emotions. We have all had those strong feelings that love invokes when we think of those we love.
Much of our biblical understanding of love comes from both the Hebrew and the Greek understanding of love.
In Hebrew the word translated “love” means “to give”. “The Hebrew word for love, ahavah, reveals this true definition of love, for the word ahavah is built upon the root consonants h‑v, which means “to give.” In order for love to be real love, it has to be expressed as an action.”
According to Greek thought their understanding of love was much more complex. They viewed love as taking on many forms. There were as many as 8 Greek words that are all described some form of love; in Greek thought each explained a different emotion or relationship. If you want to learn more about the Greek concept of love you can click here.
Basically the Greek culture understood that the emotions or relationships describing the concept of love covered the common feelings of friendship “Philia”, or the erotic feelings or attraction of “Eros” and the more devoted god-like love of “Agape”. For the purpose of this article I feel our definition of love should focus on the Greek word “Agape”.
Agape “can be best translated as a charitable love. It’s what we might feel towards someone who has behaved rather badly or come to grief through flaws of character – but for whom we still feel compassion. It’s what a God might feel for his or her people, or what an audience might feel for a tragic character in a play. It’s the kind of love that we experience in relation to someone’s weakness rather than their strength. It reminds us that love isn’t just about admiration for virtues, it’s also about sympathy and generosity towards what is fragile and imperfect in us.”
Love does involve feelings. But, the truest form of love we should focus on is that love that God has for his creation and the love we should show both towards ourselves and others. Agape is an unconditional love. It is a love that cares about others as well as a love that cares for our own selves. It is best described as a selfless love.
How Then Can We Love Ourselves?
From the Christian point of view my faith informs me that we all have value to God. God loves each one of us, everyone with an unconditional love. He doesn’t love us because we do good but because we all were created in his image for a purpose and God wants the best for everyone.
To me that means that I should care about myself in a way that takes action to help myself improve and learn what is best for me. And then do the best to live in a way that honors God.
It says that there is no such thing as one who is created by mistake. While our parents may have been mistaken in the care to not have children we all were born for a reason and that reason can only be found in God. I like the phase God doesn’t make any mistakes because it eliminates the idea that anyone was born by mistake.
It should give us all hope to that since everyone born is part of God’s creation that we all have a purpose, our biggest challenge is finding that purpose in life.
Caring for yourself; loving yourself, should involve caring for our body, soul and mind. Be kind to yourself, listen to wise advice and do the best you can to be the best you that you can be. Take care of your body. Take care of your soul. Take care of your mind.
If we can learn to love ourselves properly than we can also learn to love our neighbors or all others properly.
How Best Can We Show Love For Our Neighbors (All Others).
To love our neighbors as ourselves is to love others as God loves – unconditionally. We are not to love because our neighbors are good to us or do good things but our love should be expressed in actions that show kindness, compassion, sympathy and generosity towards all others.
In a previous article Help Me To Love Others I have illustrated that love is showing care and concern for all who we meet. That thought was based on 2 scripture references; the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, and the Apostle Paul’s explanation of Love found in 1 Corinthians 13.
While many view Love as taught in 1 Corinthians 13 as the view of the perfect love that God intends for marriages, that same scripture illustrates that we should love all others in the same way, not just our mate.
We should be patient with others, kind, not envious, rude or self-seeking. We should seek the best for them as we would seek the best for ourselves or our family. This may not be easy, as there are times when your neighbor will do something that causes you to be angry or mad to the point where you want to get even.
Just as we seek the best for ourselves, body, mind and soul we should also find ways to seek the best for our neighbors body mind and soul. Admittedly this can be our greatest struggle when dealing with others who may not look like us, think like us or act like us. But that is God’s intention for all who call themselves followers of God.
It may take a lifetime to develop that level of love for others but when we seek the best for others God will help us find a way to do His will.
Actions That Show Love Towards Our Neighbors.
In the parable of the good Samaritan the one who showed love did so by taking care of someone in great need. We may not always find great need but there are always times we can act to help others meet a need.
Taking action to help others is commended by the Apostle James – “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well-fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).
The Apostle John also commends this action in response to the needs of others – “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18).
Actions – Giving help in times of need. Encouraging someone who is struggling. Sometimes these actions can be simply being there for others, listening to them – that is being a good neighbor.
Actions – Praying for our neighbors. Doing acts of kindness are ways that we can reflect God’s love to others that we meet.
Consider Acting In Love Towards Others
Let me challenge you to start today to try to do an act of love each day. This may be difficult for some but it is possible to do things for others that reflect the kindness of God every day of your life.
I want to thank you all for reading this article. I hope something I have shared helped you to understand more about this thing called love and how to love ourselves and others.
If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to leave me a comment, in fact I cherish the thought of discussing this or any other life issue with you. And if you like this post please share it via the social media links on this page.