“The most important [commandment] . . . is this: ‘. . . Love the Lord your God. . . .’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
We learn many rules growing up: Brush your teeth. Look both ways before crossing the street. Always tell the truth. Which of these is most important?
Jesus was asked a similar question: Of the many commands and regulations in the law of God, which one tops the list? Jesus did not hesitate: “Love God above all”—and he quickly added the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And what kind of love does this refer to? In connection with God’s love for us, this is unconditional love—totally gracious, generous, and with no strings attached.
Notice especially that Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This means that if we are to love our neighbors unconditionally and generously, we will need to love ourselves that way too! God doesn’t make junk. We are created in God’s image; we are his masterpieces. It’s not just okay to love myself: God expects me to celebrate the person he created me to be!
The Golden Rule Jesus gave us—“Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12)—is another way of saying this command to love our neighbor as ourselves. Loving others well depends at least partly on our capacity to love ourselves.
Thank you, God, for creating us and pouring your love into us. Guard us against selfishness and pride. Help us to love others generously and unconditionally, in Jesus. Amen. (AM)