Not long ago I heard a sermon taught on this passage:
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40, ESV
I’ve been taught there’s two commandments here. and only two. Though people may say this implies we must love ourselves in order to love others, this is not the case. We already love ourselves. We’ve always loved ourselves. In fact, that’s the problem with us – we love ourselves too much. We’re not willing to serve others and sacrifice and worship God wholeheartedly because we love ourselves.
I’ve also been told the opposite. Without loving ourselves we are incapable of loving others. Whenever we do something loving, we are really doing it in attempt to receive love in return to satisfy our deep hunger. So in order to love others truly, we must first love ourselves.
I get both perspectives. I don’t know any verse in the Bible that explicitly tells us we should love ourselves. But I also know that at some level or another we all have a marred image of self. We all have been hurt in some way at some time. And we all want to be healed.
I don’t know if we’re really called to love ourselves. But I do know we’re called be loved. It’s God’s desire that we would know we are loved endlessly.
It was Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians being “rooted and grounded in love, [would] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [they would] be filled with all the fullness of God.” (ESV)
Knowing God’s love is knowing His presence. His fullness. it’s laying aside my own attempt to love myself and allowing the original Lover to love me well. it’s giving up my search to be loved on my own terms and allowing God’s love to fill every corner of my life.
“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:10, NLT
Real love doesn’t start with me loving myself. It doesn’t start with me loving others. It doesn’t start with me loving God.
It starts with God loving me.