Following up on a good men’s group meeting last night, I felt compelled to commit some thoughts to writing. In response to a question by the Pharisee’s regarding the greatest commandment – Jesus responded with
“Love The Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind… The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
I have been increasingly drawn to the second part of this passage (as the first part is self-evident for Christians). However, I think it also gives credence to the fact that God still comes before neighbor. But most emphatically, I notice that Jesus uses an equivocating term in the second portion of Jesus quote: as. It is easy to adopt the model of self-denial as Paul is often quoted (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:22-23; Phil. 3:8), as well as Jesus Himself (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34 Lk. 9:23). After all, we may rightly acknowledge that we have been born into a new nature (Jn. 3:3; Rom. 12:2)! But this reasoning may potentially allow for a venturing into a realm of self-neglect. I don’t mean to suppose that we neglect ourselves physically here, but perhaps we may not always give ourselves the credit God has allowed us to dwell in. I was surprised to find scripture giving clear instructions for this:
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”! (1 Timothy 5:8)
Though the text is suggesting family relations, I think we can allow for greater interpretive dexterity since exponential individualism has crept into our way of life today. Now of course, this is only one reference, and sound doctrine should be built on more than that. I am then drawn to Paul’s discussion of the unity of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. In short, we need each other!
We are united together, yet we cannot effectively help others when our own sickness is severe and even contagious. Of course, that’s taking things to the extreme. But Jesus did indicate that ‘planks’ could be in our eyes, even as we dutifully respond to specks in the eyes of our brothers (Lk. 6:42). While this is my usual long-winded meanderings, I return to the significance of the two greatest commandments – Love God first, and than we love others as we are love ourselves. This “self-love” concept must be articulated. I don’t mean to suggest a selfish sort of love – but a healthy love of oneself, or more of a balanced self-worth. I am not sure that following the first commandment Jesus indicated above can rightly be followed by anything other than a careful love of oneself and his neighbors.