For the week of May 3, 2008 / 28 Nissan 5768
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:17,18; ESV)
When God speaks we need to listen carefully to what he is actually saying. We must be careful not to introduce concepts into his Word that he did not intend. Such a concept is a popular one regarding "Love your neighbor as yourself." Somehow this commandment has been used to extract the concept of self love. I have heard it said, "How can we love another person, if we do not first love ourselves?" This may sound logical, but God never commands us to "Love ourselves." I accept that "Love your neighbor as yourself" assumes we are already concerned about ourselves. But that is not the same thing as concluding that we need to love ourselves before we can love others.
There is a similar directive in the New Covenant writings, where Paul reminds husbands to love their wives.
You might disagree with Paul when he says, "For no one ever hated his own flesh." Are there not people who do hate themselves? Do not some people purposely harm themselves? Are there not people whose low view of themselves cripple their ability to truly love others? Of course there are. But do we help these people by pointing them to "love your neighbor as yourself" as a way to show them that they need to love themselves? Did God intend that his words should lead us to believe that we are to love self first, before we can love others? Do those of us who naturally put ourselves first need to be told that loving self is one of God's priorities, so that we can live life as he intended? Are we not already so self focused?
It's really something how we can take a commandment designed to call us away from our natural selfishness and twist it into a most selfish concept.
Low self esteem and self hatred are destructive and should be addressed if we are to be the people God has called us to be. But we will only see ourselves correctly as we come to a right understanding of who God is and who we are before him. As we accept his truth, his love, and his forgiveness through Yeshua, we will be free to be what he intended us to be.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" directs us to treat others just as we want to be treated. Far from being a self focused statement, it is a call to really care about those around us.
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