Matthew 22:39 | “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In Luke 10, where one account of this conversation takes place, the follow up question after Jesus confirms the summary of the Law was “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus already answered that question in an often told story called ‘The Good Samaritan’.
What I would like to do is approach a different question. One that I think our society fails to answer well. A question that the Church (I have found) has been even less efficient at demonstrably answering:
“Who is PEOPLE?”
We know who our neighbors are, in the biblical sense. But I wonder if we know who ‘people’ is. I’ll spare you the suspense: WE are people—you and I. An element of this command that I don’t think gets enough attention is the “as yourself” part. Love your neighbor as YOURSELF. This means we have to love ourselves.
Loving ourselves is not an act of self delusion or grandeur; rather, it is the reasonable next step in these commands that Jesus says are the greatest. In saying “as yourself,” Jesus is describing how we should love our neighbor. That means the foundation upon which our love for others stands is our love for ourselves.
The context for loving ourselves is specific. This isn’t some love we conjure up based on how great we think we are. If we base our love for ourselves on our own greatness, we’re off to a bad start. If the context of our love is our greatness, we may easily be tempted to measure the greatness of others against our own [perceived] greatness. Then we may be inclined to share or withhold our love based on the comparative ratings we apply to others. We are not the control.
God is the control.
Our baseline comparison for what love looks like is in God. This is because God IS love (1 John 4:7-16). If we want to know how we should love ourselves, we need not look any further than God. You see, God is not only the highest and greatest example of love; He is also the highest and greatest example of you and me. How do I know this? …because when God first created humankind, He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING
In the 1990’s there was an ad campaign, by a popular beverage company, aimed at the image of ourselves that we each put forward. They placed their clear, sugary, sparkling beverage at the center of the argument. The tagline said, “Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.”
The ad slogan was cute and encouraged some of us to drink more of their product. But many of us have grown up to realize that the thirst is real, and obeying our thirst can get us tangled up in some business we have no business making our business! Hidden within that messaging is the idea what who you are doesn’t matter as much as what you want; and that you should pursue what you want—or what your thirst is telling you want—over the pursuit of an image.
Given that we are made in the image and likeness of God, I am taking this opportunity, in this context, to challenge that assertion. Knowing that I am made in God’s image compels me to believe that image is, in fact, everything! It’s actually my thirst driven pursuits that defile my self-image. See… once I have satisfied my thirst for the things of my flesh, I look different. I see less of God in me; my image becomes distorted.
According to this love equation that Jesus presents us with, I can only love others as well as I love myself. This makes how I see myself critical to how I see others and ultimately how I love others.
Say this to yourself:
“I am a person, worthy of honor, fearfully and wonderfully made in the very image and likeness of God. The highest price was paid for my soul, because I am valued and deeply loved by God. I can love other people well, because I love me well; and most importantly, because God first loved me.”
That’s it. That’s the tweet.
Let me break that down just a little…
Here is how we are to love others: the same way we love ourselves.
» We can truly love ourselves and others when we learn to see what God sees. When God created us, He saw Himself.
» Even though we have chosen to obey our thirst over our image, once we choose Jesus, He stands in front of us… so again, God sees Himself.
» When we look at who God made us to be and not who we think we have become, we become more lovable to ourselves.
» The more lovable we are to ourselves (solely because of whose image we are made in), the greater our capacity for loving others becomes.
When we free ourselves to love ourselves based on God’s image embedded in us and stamped on us, we become free to love others based on that same criteria.
This Great Commandment Jesus gives us is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind….and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor.
Your neighbor is people.
You are people.
Therefore, Love People.
This is part of our mission.
Keith Goosby II is the founding minister of NET Church. He has served in ministry for over 20 years, in various capacities–including music, social media management, teaching, preaching, consulting, and leadership. Keith’s first church experience as a child was a home church. Since then, he has attended and served at churches sizing from just a few to over 10,000–of various denominations and affiliations. As NET Church is being planted, Keith continues to serve at his Dallas home church, Golden Gate MBC, in Dallas, TX, under the leadership of Minister Vincent T. Parker. Keith is married and currently lives in the Dallas area with his wife and three sons.