At first, it seems absurd, but on closer inspection, with a little reflection, it’s actually profoundly true. This is a definition of a paradox – and the Bible is full of them. If you want to be strong, become weak. (2 Corinthians 12.10) You receive God’s abundance by giving away (Luke 6.38) Lose your life to save it (Matthew 10.39)
But the Biblical paradox that may most often be misunderstood is Jesus’ response to the test question of the Pharisees about the greatest commandment. In response Jesus provides the answer based on Deuteronomy 6.5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
The encounter becomes all the more interesting when Jesus volunteers more than he was asked for! He links together the second with the first greatest commandment. “And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and prophets.” (Matthew 22.34-39) As above, this isn’t anything new, but is referenced from long ago in Leviticus (19.18).
What is new, however, is Jesus has them holding hands as one. Love of God, love of neighbor and love of self are woven together as three threads to create one new fabric of love!
Here’s the closer inspection part. If I love myself because God has loved me in Jesus, my love of neighbor will be empowered. When I love myself as God loves me, I have a powerful love to invest in a spouse, family, friends, neighbors.
This isn’t narcissism – where I’ve fallen “in love” with myself, but, a love of self inspired by forgiveness and acceptance that provides confident strength from the inside out. It equips me to engage the risk of loving because it provides the ultimate security. No matter what you think of me, I know what God thinks of me in Christ. I can live taking greater loving risks because my Source of love lies from within – independent of others loving or non-loving responses.
At first it seems absurd, but on closer inspection, with a little reflection, it’s actually profoundly true. Love of God, self and neighbor are woven together wonderfully so that as I’m blessed with love of self, my neighbor is blessed with the love of God!
Guest devotion by Karl Galik. Karl is a pastor, author and speaker on Christian leadership and the connection between love of self and effectively leading others. He has been married to Marilouise for thirty-nine years and together God has blessed them with three children and ten grandchildren. Learn how you can become a guest writer.