Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29-31 NKJV
Until I started writing for this blog, I didn’t see just how often the Holy Spirit brings me back to major touchstones. I think that I will never be done with the New Testament commandments, certainly not in this life. Just when I think that I have a handle on things, He lets me glimpse another level and then I’m off to the races again. And right now, I’m flailing at the paradox of the second: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
At the moment, those are the most frustrating seven words in the English language. There’s a whole world in this single imperative! I am to love my neighbor. I am to love myself. I am to love my neighbor AS myself. Well, as surely as I know my own name, I know that I do not love myself.
I just read 1 Corinthians 13 again, but this time I read it with myself in mind. Specifically, is this how I love myself? Nope, not even close. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I know that God alone loves with this kind of love; I will never, apart from the indwelling life of Christ, be a vessel of that divine, inhuman love. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether I’ve allowed that indwelling love to move within me, on me, for me.
My need for love is so primal that it wasn’t difficult for the Lord to expose and demolish a great many of my walls blocking His Love. Most of them dropped when I was born again. But when it comes to loving myself, it’s been an excruciating journey. And while I no longer actively hunt and shoot myself on a daily basis, simply calling for a truce is not the same as loving.
It’s not enough just to stop the murderous self-hate; it’s not enough just to forgive myself for hurting so many people and doing such terrible things; it’s not enough just to receive God’s forgiveness for all that I am and let the Blood wash me clean; Love has to come in, too.
It’s Love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Forgiveness and the Blood cleanse me and grant me right of entrance, but it’s Love that holds and heals and ignites and LIVES. It’s Love that sees what others can’t. Love saw the whole of Peter – the good, bad, and ugly of his entire life, past and future – and said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 16:17-19).
Love doesn’t just stop the beating of a child; Love carries the child to safety, tends the wounds, and takes care of every provision required for the child to heal and become whole (Lk. 10:30-35). There are some areas in my life where I’m stuck and have been for quite a while. I think that I’m stuck because I haven’t let Love in there. I stopped kicking myself, but I’m still lying on the side of the road, bruised and battered. I didn’t let Love come in and take care of me. I haven’t loved myself as God loves me.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NKJV