“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
When I was at university, I was determined to get involved in as many interesting activities as I possibly could. Having worked for two years in a job that I didn’t really enjoy before starting my degree, I wanted to make the most of every opportunity I had. Two of the activities I very quickly got involved with were the Christian Union, where I served on the committee, and in the Chaplaincy, where I helped to plan the services and other activities, as well as playing my flute in the morning service. Very quickly, though, I realised that I had very little time for myself, and that I was getting tired and stressed. I remember vividly the words of the wife of the chaplain, who quoted today’s verse at me, and told me that it was implicit within it that we should love ourselves, and ensure that we look after ourselves as well as loving those around us. It came as a bit of a revelation to me, and is something that I have continued to reflect on in the years since I left university.
We read yesterday that one of the fruits of the Spirit, which we demonstrate if we are committed to Christ, is love. Love is central to the character of God, and should be central to our character too. In John 3:16, one of the most well known verses in the Bible, Jesus tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” Jesus was sent to live amongst us, and died in our place on the cross. On the cross, he was cut off from his father, and experienced pain and loneliness in a way that we simply could not begin to comprehend. God sent Jesus willingly, though, and Jesus willingly died for us because of God’s vast love for us. If we are seeking to emulate Christ in our behaviour, then, we must first of all demonstrate love for everyone we meet, whether we like them or loath them. We might not be called to die for someone else, but there are plenty of practical ways that we can love people – helping them, caring for them, supporting them, listening to them, just being there for them. How often, though, do we find ourselves being unpleasant to people just because we are having a bad day. Similarly, just as the chaplain’s wife said to me, it is just as important that we love ourselves too, and make sure that we have time to relax and unwind, eat properly, exercise regularly, and sleep properly. If we do not love ourselves, it is very hard to love those around us.
Reflect today on whether you love your neighbour as much as you love yourself. Do you love yourself? Do you demonstrate God’s love to everyone you meet?