Monday, April 11, 2016

Mark 12: 31: Loving Self and Neighbor

“...The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

We all know the two great commandments: Love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.  They are, in many ways, the hinge of our faith in Christ.  He commands us to put God first, others second, and ourselves last.  But the second commandment requires that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is problematic, especially if we struggle with self value and self forgiveness. How can we be vessels of God’s love if we lack in self love? Our love for neighbor, then, would be flawed and lacking.  We must love, forgive, and nourish ourselves as God loves, forgives, and nourishes us. Only then are we prepared to love others like Jesus.

In his essay “Put on Your Own Mask First: The Safety of Self Care,” Omid Safi, a columnist for On Being, illustrates a compelling metaphor regarding the safety instructions given at the start of an airplane flight. In the time of an in-flight crisis, the unnerving directions require that parents first put on their own oxygen masks before they put on their children’s. This metaphor reminds us of the abrasiveness we feel when self love has to come first, since it goes against everything we are taught as Christians and the very fabric of what makes us human. Or does it? The following is what Safi says about self love and neighborly love:
Somewhere there has to be a balance of loving sacrifice for those we love, and providing loving care for our own selves. . . . May we live up to the commandment to balance tender, loving care for those most vulnerable with the realization that sometimes it is our own selves who are also vulnerable and in need of (self)care.

I pray that our daily tasks include loving God above all things and loving/valuing/forgiving ourselves so that we can fully love our neighbor.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.