37And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). 38This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:37-40 Amplified)
The Lord’s clear mandate to love others as we love ourselves can seem narcissistic at initial glance. And how are we to love ourselves anyway when so much of God’s message to humanity is that we are sinners?
It is true we are sinners. None of us can live completely God’s way without stumbling. But if we are to stop there in our understanding, we have missed the entire point. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ we are set free not just from physical death but from emotional debilitation and potential emotional death as well.
God knows we are sinners. He made us able to seek holiness, defined as consecration and dedication to God, but unable to attain His perfection. It is through God’s own sacrifice of Himself for us that we receive the right to draw near to Him who alone is fully perfect. Through Christ we no longer are rejected, but accepted. Thus, we are freed from wrong, often crippling perceptions to see ourselves as God sees us.
As a result of Jesus’ complete obedience to the Father unto death, regardless of our imperfections, God sees us through the eyes of His Son and His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice atoned for everything we would ever do wrong, because Christ already endured the justifiable punishment for our shortcomings (our sins, our ways of being and doing which do not mirror God’s way). God sees us through merciful eyes filled with unconditional, unwavering, infinite, everlasting love. God sees us as the ones for whom He has yearned, longing for us to return to Him like the father of the prodigal.
Through Jesus we not only are redeemed from certain death now and forever, we also are adopted and made joint heirs with Christ, who is forever the only begotten Son of God. Immediately we are seated with Christ spiritually in the heavenly realms by our faith in His salvation and decision to follow Him, and given infinite authority through the power of His name (which represents all that He is) for we belong to His family. We are exquisitely beautiful to Him because we are made in His image – the image of the one true Supreme, Sovereign God. And when we consider how and why He saves us from eternal death – not because it is what we deserve, but because of who He is – He offers us the gift of freedom from condemnation and rejection as we internalize the truth of His acceptance and love.
Thus it is through Jesus we finally can choose to love ourselves. This is not because we have become perfect in any way, but because we have not become perfect, yet we know God loves us infinitely regardless. This reality sets us free from living out our earthly lives emotionally crippled by deceptive, wrong, self-perceptions.
We love ourselves not because we are self-made and great but because we know we are nothing compared to Him. We have no power or perfection and yet we are redeemed. We love ourselves because we are in awe of what He has done. If He can love us as we are, then how can we not? We do not become proud in this love, but humble, realistic and grateful for we know we have done nothing to deserve it.
Loving others follows learning to love ourselves in light of God’s love. Only when we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, and drop to our figurative and physical knees in awe of the astounding revelation of this love can we begin to love others like ourselves, which is what He asks of us. It is out of this recognition He empowers us to begin to gaze upon the imperfections of others with His merciful, forgiving, tender loving view, forgiving their trespasses against us because we know what it is like to need forgiveness and be completely forgiven. We intercede for others from our spiritual position with Jesus at the right hand of the Father, not because we are better than anyone, but because we know we are not.
We choose to love and not hate even in instances where we must set boundaries of protection between some individuals and ourselves because of their choices. This is because even when others are at their ugliest and far from God, He still loves them. We love them because He first loved us and still does.
Choosing to love others out of the love we have found for ourselves in Christ is a way of celebrating how the Lord sees all of us and loves us eternally and at all costs.
Selah! [Pause, and calmly think of that!]
Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist. She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way.
For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro and on itunes.
Elizabeth is the Founder of Eagles Nest Foundation which provides spiritual support & encouragement to military and military families as well as those in physical and emotional battles (such as cancer, long-term illness) as well as those grieving a loss. (A current outreach is The Japan GRIEF Project.) For information email email@example.com or visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org
Eagles Nest Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible. Thank you for your prayers and support!