By Rick Lewers
The golden rule, as many understand it, is to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Note those couple of words, as yourself.
This rule goes all the way back to Jesus Christ, who labelled it as God’s second greatest commandment, which, interestingly, contains the expectation that you will “love yourself”.
In a school hall filled with 500 students I asked the question, “How many of you think you are valuable?” In that auditorium three students put their hands up. I am still getting over the shock.
But the shock was increased when a young girl arrived at church with her mother and the question of value came up, to which she said she didn’t feel valuable at all. To my amazement, when I said, “surely you feel valuable to Mum and Dad,” her answer was “NO”. Her parents are still getting over the shock.
In an age where people can’t love themselves and have lost a sense of their real value, is it all that surprising that suicide is a major problem, that the beauty of sex becomes a perverted attempt for acceptance, that eating disorders spring from unrealistic social expectations, that drug and alcohol abuse may be an attempt to escape a world in which they feel little worth? When people lose their love of self, life is never pretty.
While concerned for the individual, the concern touches us all. If a person cannot value themselves, what foundation do they have for valuing others? The command of God was “love your neighbour as yourself”. If you don’t love yourself that has to affect how you love others. If you don’t value yourself, you will have trouble valuing others.
So in answering the problem the question is obvious. What can be done to help people find such a deep sense of their own worth that they will be able to love themselves enough to better love others?
Well, I said “love your neighbour as yourself” was the second greatest commandment and I think the answer is in the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…” Loving ‘yourself’ and valuing yourself begins with loving the God who first loved you. The thought that the God of all things would love someone as seemingly inconsequential as me is more precious than gold.
And like the Billy Joel song, he takes me just the way I am, and not on the basis of others’ expectations or even my own. I think Billy’s song was a love song between a man and a woman but his words reflect truths about God in the Bible. “I said I love you and that’s forever and this I promise from the heart, I could not love you any better, I love you just the way you are.” When Jesus Christ died on the cross, the world was introduced to the God, who would rather die for us than live without us. God’s love is eternal, it is promised from His heart and He could not love us any better than to die for us as Jesus did, and the truth is that He will take you just the way you are.
That’s grace! That’s mercy! That’s love! When people who don’t value themselves and can’t love themselves, know the love of God, they don’t stay the way they are, since the love of God changes everything and they begin to love themselves and they start loving their neighbours. Knowing the love of God is a step of faith, where we acknowledge what it is that has kept us from experiencing this love, which is sin. Sin is rebellion against this God of love where we want to run our own lives. History has shown us that we have not done that well, and reveals to us on a daily basis our need of a right relationship with God.
I can’t help thinking that putting God back in the centre of life is really good for us. If you want to know more turn to page 11 and check out the response slip.