The Greatest Commandment: God, Others, and Self

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Sometimes I hear the greatest command summed up as “love God and love others”. That misses the only person in the whole world who isn’t included in those two categories, self. But Jesus did include loving yourself in the greatest commandment,

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-38

Paul echoes this in Ephesians 5:28-29, “28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church”

God doesn’t want us to get so caught up in loving ourselves that we get self-centered and fail at the first two greatest commandments in Jesus lists. I do wonder though, if we avoid talking about the love of self for fear people won’t handle it very well. What can happen is people end up feeling pretty beat up, guilty and lacking a biblical concept of God’s love for them and a healthy love for themselves. Maybe that is just so obvious that I am the only guy in the room that hasn’t picked up on that.

2 Responses

  1. What interests me about the passage is that the way I love others is to be a reflection of my love for myself. In that sense, I’ve always understood the need for loving self, but I’ve struggled with so many really bad paradigms for loving self floating around … some smart aleck always asks, “What if you hate yourself?” I wonder if the key to loving self, and through that, others, isn’t found in the loving relationship described in the greatest command. When I love God properly, and I’m loved by him, this becomes the proper context for loving others.

    1. Great thought there Rob. I think you are right in how these two commandments helps us understand our own position with God and the value we have as people in God’s sight.

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