As a teenager, I was often told, "You must love yourself before anyone else can love you." I never really understood what that meant but looking back, I can see that it was used with good intentions to mend a teenage girl's broken self-esteem. Is it not true, though, that deep down, even while suffering from low self-esteem, we still love ourselves?
Jesus tells the Pharisees that the greatest commandment is to: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," (Matthew 22:37). He is saying to make Him our priority - our focus. This is true love. But how often is our priority ourselves? Even when we're suffering from low self-esteem there is a form of self-love because our priority is thinking about ourselves.
Loving ourselves is not bad. We are God's creation, made in His image, and He expects us to love ourselves as such. God wants us to take care of our bodies, minds, and souls. He wants us to care enough about ourselves to fight for the sanctity of our lives. So when God says in verse 39, "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'" (Matthew 22:39), He means to love our neighbor with this kind of love, the kind of love He expects us to have for ourselves. However, we all know that there is a type of self-love that is sinful. Whenever we become focused on ourselves before God and others, we are loving ourselves out of sin. We become obsessed with ourselves, thinking about ourselves nonstop. This leads to using others for our gain, entitlement, and even narcissism.
In Matthew 22:38 when Jesus tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself," He is quoting Leviticus 19:18. This Old Testament passage (Leviticus 19:9-18) is where we find specific ways to obey God’s command.
Here are 9 ways Leviticus shows us what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves:
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