Monday, March 12, 2012

#9 Galatians 5:14 "Love Myself as My Neighbor...?"

"The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

If ever there was an important command, this is it.

Not only does the verse itself tell you how important these words are, they are repeated several times in the Bible. In Leviticus 19:18, Moses gave this command from God to the children of Israel. Jesus cited this command in Luke 10:27 (and other places in the synoptic gospels). Paul quoted this command in both Romans 13:9 and here in Galatians. And then, James mentions this same command in James 2:18.

So, okay. I get it. If we seek to implement this principle, to love our neighbors as ourselves, we will be doing right. Simple, right?

Well, for me... not so simple.

There are a couple of words in this command that I struggle with. No, it's not "Love your neighbor." I think I sort of get that. I think I can understand that loving my neighbor does not simply mean loving those who live near me. My neighbor is anyone I come in contact with and whoever God leads me to interact with.

And loving my neighbor means doing right by others. This can include anything from not holding grudges (as Leviticus mentions) to being a "good Samaritan" at great personal cost to myself. Yes, I am working toward understanding this part of the command.

What I struggle with, believe it or not, is loving my neighbor as I love myself. Yes, I struggle mightily with loving myself.

There is no easy answer to this. Loving oneself is not simply a matter of boosting one's self esteem, or repeating positive, biblically-based messages to oneself throughout the day. It isn't a matter of hearing (and believing) a good sermon or bible study on the topic, or getting down on my knees and "repenting" of my bad attitude and lack of faith in God's unconditional love.

I won't go into all the grungy details of my inner psyche, my childhood issues or my personal wounds. Those specifics are not important for this discussion.

What is important is that I know I am not alone. Many of us struggle with having a healthy self-love. We have been given messages throughout our lives that we are flawed, that we are not good enough. Little girls, especially, are taught to be invisible and low-maintenance. Many of us in the Japanese-American culture were raised in a shame-based culture, with personal shame and self-belittling seen as virtues, not mental health concerns.

Even in the church, we are given double messages about self-love. Sometimes self-love is portrayed as selfishness or vanity. We are told, "It's not about you!" Yes, I know...sometimes it ISN'T about me, but it usually feels like it is NEVER about me.

So, how can we grow in "self-love"? How can we minister to ourselves in ways that really matter?

Today, as of this writing, I don't have an answer. And that's probably okay.

You see, what I DON'T want to do is offer an easy answer.....a pat, Christian-like solution or a quickie sermon message that's supposed to fix everything. It won't work, and it wouldn't respect and cherish the hearts out there who are hurting and struggling.

As I said before, there is no easy answer. But I do want you to know that I am a fellow struggler. And guess what? It's okay to struggle.

I remember a great man who was also a struggler. His name was Jacob. He was a memorable guy in Genesis 32 who wrestled with God, in a wrestling match that lasted all night long. And he got two significant things from his struggle. One, he was given a hip injury, which resulted in a life-long limp. And two, he received a blessing. "You have struggled with God and with men and have overcome. (32:28)"

I may not overcome this anytime soon, but the struggle is worth it. After all, God has commanded us to love ourselves. I will struggle with this, possibly for the rest of my life, but God understands. I will have my days when I struggle more than other days. I will become discouraged and will let it turn into depression.

But I won't give up the struggle to learn to love myself. Because I know that it is not just for my own sake (and my own personal happiness), but it is part of the sum of God's entire law.

That makes the struggle worth least for me.


  1. Hi. This is another great lesson. YOU SHOULD BECOME A PASTOR.


  2. I truly believe that He will reach out to His children in times of need and help guide them. And your blog is just another example of such blessing. I struggle as well with the second part, the loving myself. Your words can not ring truer in my heart.

    Thank you for reminding me that there is no simply one line or one quick sermon will "fix" me and make it all better. When in fact, not only is it okay to struggle with it everyday, but to know that we are suppose to struggle and that its His plan for us. Thank you again for reminding me of His love for all of us and that He truly has a plan for us.

    God Bless.

    Brother in Christ,

    1. Dana and Dan,
      Thank you for the encouraging comments! I do appreciate them and need them!

      I hope God continues to bless and guide you not only as fellow strugglers, but as fellow overcomers.