December 7, 2020
Exactly How Do I Love My Neighbor as Myself?
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“He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39 (CSB)
When you read Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” does it puzzle you slightly? After all, aren’t most of us more likely to loathe rather than love ourselves, being overly self-critical? If we are going to obey Jesus’ command, we first need to comprehend this idea of self-love.
In today’s key passage, we see Jesus introduce the concept when asked which command in the law is the greatest:
“He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
The original Greek word translated “love” goes beyond having warm, fuzzy feelings toward someone or about ourselves. It suggests action. It means, “To have benevolence toward; to take regard to their welfare.”
Based on this definition, self-love goes beyond feeling good about ourselves (which we don’t always feel) and means taking action in regard to our own welfare. Turns out, we are already pretty good at this! We look out for our welfare each day when we make sure our basic needs are met through food to eat, warm clothes to wear and a comfy place to lay our heads at night.
But you and I both know that we often take it a step further beyond meeting our basic needs. We take “me time” by going for a walk alone or doing something fun we love. We buy ourselves special treats and might even pamper ourselves with a manicure or massage. These are all ways we practice self-love.
So, now that we know what self-love looks like, who is our “neighbor,” and how do we love them like we love ourselves?
In our Matthew passage, Jesus references two Old Testament verses, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Based on the meaning of “neighbor” in Leviticus, Jesus’ audience would have defined “neighbor” as any fellow Israelite OR a resident alien that was welcomed and living within the community. However, through His story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37, Jesus expands that definition to anyone who needs our help. Jesus illustrates a more extravagant love than was required in the Old Testament — and then commands us to show it.
How do we love anyone who needs our help with the same love that we show ourselves?
We can certainly work to meet basic needs — especially of the marginalized and overlooked. We can purchase and deliver hygiene products to homeless shelters or set aside a few dollars of our grocery budget each week to purchase some needed items for a local food pantry.
But we shouldn’t stop there. We can seek out that busy mama with two-under-two and offer to babysit free of charge so she can have an afternoon of “me time.” We can purchase a special dessert or a small gift for someone we know needs their day brightened. Or, we can use the money we may have set aside for our next pedicure to bless a woman who needs to feel seen, loved and beautiful.
Such simple gestures speak volumes of love, comforting others as you meet their needs.
Don’t allow the words of Jesus to only stay printed in your Bible. Give them wings, springing them into action. There are souls in your life who need your nurture. Consider how you might show concern for their welfare, loving and caring for them the way you already love and care for yourself. When you do, you’ll be completing the chain of love that began when God first loved you.
Father, may I be on the lookout for those who need Your comfort and love. Help me to show them compassion and care as I point them to the good news of the gospel. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 2:15-16, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (NIV)
Karen’s latest book, Reach Out, Gather In: 40 Days to Opening Your Heart and Home is full of doable ideas and delicious recipes that will enable you to love and comfort others. Pick up a copy!
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What is a way you can think of to love and care for others like you love and care for yourself? How will you implement your idea?
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2020 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.