I’ve often heard Jesus’ answer to the question, “which is the greatest commandment,” made as simple as, “Love God, love people.”
But I think there’s more to it than that.
Now I’m not trying to upset any of the folks who tried to sexy it up by shortening it, I just think the director’s cut provides a fuller insight.
“‘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.“
Even at its full length, they seems pretty clear.
So how come I struggle to follow these rules, especially number two?
In fact, let’s just jump right to the second one and be brutally honest with ourselves.
How tough of a pill is it to swallow that God is demanding that I love my neighbor?
Does God know this fella is straight off the cover of “Crime Times?” Does he see the shadiness pulling in and out of that driveway at all hours of the night? What about all the topless afternoon chain smoking stints while he gives me the stink eye? (Just one though, the other’s swollen shut and purple for some reason I dare not inquire about.)
Does God know about all these and yet still want me to love this dude?
Of course he does. God loves methy old Casper as much as he loves Billy Graham and more than Casper loves Natty Ice. He loves him because Casper’s one of his kids and God also expects me to love Casper, and all my other “neighbors” too.
See when it comes down to it, my struggle with loving my neighbors isn’t a them problem, it’s a me problem.
To be honest, there’s a lot of times I don’t really love, or even like, myself.
As a 31-year-old single dude living in a town where 25, married and with child is the norm, this isn’t hard to do. Mix in being at the ground level of a new career after a couple failed ones and a monthly struggle to not foolish squander away all my money on food and heat, and a cocktail of self doubt and hatred can quickly be mixed.
So when I’m told to feel the same way about my neighbors, some problems arise. Loving my neighbor as myself can turn ugly if I take it literally some days. I mean, if I show up at Casper’s house at 5 a.m. to make him go on a run like I do myself, I’m likely not going to walk back through that screen-less screen door.
It’s a me problem. Unless I love myself I find it nearly impossible to appropriately love my neighbors.
This is all that uncommon though. Most teachers will tell you the meanest kid in class is most often the one with the worst self esteem. The one that deep down, just isn’t all that happy with him or herself and compensates for it by making other kids feel like crap.
On the flip side, think about the person you most enjoy being around. Think about that person who always seems to make you feel good, no matter what crap storm your day has been.
I’d bet your house that person loves him or herself. I’d bet your car that person has accepted who he or she is and is super comfortable in his or her own skin.
We all know these folks, they are gifted with the ability to just be themselves and be happy about it. (Gosh I hope to be one of them one day.) That’s not to say they don’t have their moments, everyone does, but on a day-in, day-out basis, they just really dig who they are.
When we feel crappy about ourselves, we’re not like these folks, we’re more like that bad kid, and until we develop the right relationships with ourselves, it’s going to continue to be a struggle for us to treat others the way God wants.
But you know as well as I do, that’s a heck of a lot easier said than done. Let’s be real, we all have our dark moments, some more charcoal than others.
So maybe the key to tackling the second commandment starts with tackling the first.
Maybe the key to me feeling better about myself, is to first love God with everything I have. And I mean really make a conscience effort to love him, not just stamp a heart on card and hand it to him a day after his birthday, which of course is Dec. 25.
Maybe loving God like this, will help make it easier for me to love what he loves, and maybe it will help me not so often forgot, I’m on that loved list.
Maybe this will make it easier for me to love myself on a regular basis, be more comfortable in my own skin, and in the long run, be a better at loving my neighbors.
I hope so because I think God doesn’t just want us to love ourselves, but commands it, which often isn’t such an easy pill to swallow either.
It we don’t swallow that one, however, swallowing the one will likely be even more difficult.