For most of the thirty plus years that I’ve been a Christian, I missed a critical part of this scripture:
The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27
The part that I missed what...“Love your neighbor as yourself.“
I fell in love with Jesus at 18 years old because I realized how much He loved me. My first encounter with God was when I was 10-years-old while I was considering suicide. His presence came into my dark bedroom like a cloud of life.
That presence made me feel valuable and like I mattered to the world. I grew up hating myself. I hated how I looked. I hated my ethnic mix. I hated where I lived. I hated being poor. I hated everything about myself. My relationship with Jesus stopped the self-hatred as I learned that He loved me.
However, when I became involved in church, I realized that my value was related to how much I could contribute with money, time and talent. I wasn’t intrinsically valued because I was made in His image. I was valued because of what I could do for the church.
What I could do for the church drove me into a performance-oriented relationship with people and God. That came crashing down when God brought into my life a child who taught me that she is valuable because God made her. Her value isn’t based on her stellar talent or that she can preach or sing. She is valuable because God says she is valuable.
My church recently hosted Danny Silk as part of Keeping Your Love On Tour. Danny mentored Kris Valloton who has reshaped my thinking the last 2 years as I’ve listened to his podcasts. Kris is the first person to emphasize the part of that scripture about loving your neighbor as yourself.
“You’re suppose to love yourself,” he said on the podcast. I listened to that over and over again because what was drilled into me was that I didn’t matter and my job was to die to who I am so that He would live in me. I didn’t learn how to love myself. Of course Kris clarified that loving yourself shouldn’t blow up into selfishness where you become a self-centered monster.
I always perversely thought that loving myself was a sin. That view affected how I treated people as commodities rather than valuable treasures of God. I allowed myself to be treated like a commodity when I was included or excluded based on what I could give or not give to the cause.
I’m learning how to love myself and love others as Christ loves. From Keep Your Love On, page 65:
“So what does love mean in the context of a relationship? The pillar of love is comprised of a commitment, an action and a result. The commitment part is this: ‘I care about you and value you – all of you. I care about your soul, spirit, body, relationships, dreams, and destiny.’ The action part is demonstrating care and value in many ways and in many situations as you get to know a person over time. And the result of these actions is that the person feels loved! They feel safe, valued, connected, nourished, protected and understood.'”
I thank God that He LOVES me and because He LOVES me, I can LOVE people without expecting anything in return. I’m not a commodity to God and He isn’t a giant machine in the sky dropping blessings or curses based on my performance. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who lifts us up, calls us out of darkness and transforms us with His love.
He wants me in His life and I want to be in His life. I am His daughter and He is my Father. We have a relationship and a connection. My desire is to protect that connection with Him and with people. Loving myself isn’t a sin but it can become a sin when I love myself more than other people.
Jesus was the perfect example of someone who loved beyond Himself. He reached out to the outcasts, the misfits and untouchables. He didn’t recruit them into a club to work for Him. He brought them into His family. Our faith is a family with love as the cornerstone.