Recently I was listening to someone, I forget who (most likely Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz), talk about Matthew 22:34-40 and they mentioned something I’d never heard before. They said that the part about “loving your neighbor as you love yourself,” has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves.
You see, loving yourself isn’t the same thing as thinking the world revolves around you. Loving yourself has to do with developing relationships, not being so hard-headed you don’t go to the doctor when you’re sick and understanding what’s bad for you and avoiding it, no matter how good it feels.
Today, in America, we’re told that loving yourself is all about beating someone out for a promotion or job. We’re told it’s about stealing the guy from your friend or having the most friends on Facebook. “See,” we proclaim, “I’m better than you. I have more. I’m the center of the universe.”
That’s not love. That’s blindness.
When we love, people are no longer commodities we use to improve ourselves. They become people we care about and work to build up. As we go about this, we notice something. They aren’t the only ones being built up. We are, as well.
This past week members of my church took part in Compassion Week, culminating in numerous projects on Saturday stretching across three counties. I took some small part in this due to another volunteer commitment, but my oldest son and youngest daughter spent several hours painting and cleaning up a home for an elderly couple raising five grandchildren ages 4- 15. My daughter, especially, was deeply effected by this work.
At 13 she has been the epitome of teen girl selfishness: “I want an iPod; our house isn’t nice enough; why don’t we have a flat screen?” Yesterday she was appreciative of what little we have. Today her selfishness had fallen away to be replaced with an understanding that loving others is about walking in Christ’s footsteps, not putting the world in line behind her.
When we are self-centered we’re zeroed in on our wants. When we love, we are compassionate and we see needs. Wants are secondary. Cause is secondary. What matters is that someone has a need and having it met. Love is a verb, action we take to show how much someone matters. Loving ourselves is about meeting our needs. If we’re going to meet ours, then this verse is about meeting the needs of others and that doing this is just as important, if not more, than meeting our own.
Or maybe I’m just crazy and off base. What do you think?