Rev. Ross Helgeton/Faith and Reflection
An expert in the law of Moses asked Jesus which commandment in the law is the most important. Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: Love your neighbour the same as you love yourself… .” (Matthew 22:35 – 40 ERV)
Jesus’ answer sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Yet, people spend their entire lives struggling with both of these commandments. There are many people who don’t love God, and perhaps even more who can’t tolerate their neighbour.
Possibly, perhaps even probably, one reason that people have trouble loving God, or others, is because their self-image is distorted; they don’t love themselves! Disproportionate viewpoints, ranging from self-resentment to self-worship, can result in everything from self abasement to narcissism (though self-loathing does seems to be more common than self-absorption).
Our self-image is often linked to our abilities and performance and/or associated with material acquisitions. This approach is quite flawed. First, not everyone is an achiever, nor will everyone become wealthy. Secondly, those who do achieve and/or become wealthy will, over the course of time, lose their ability to achieve and their wealth will either be spent or left behind. Or, as someone said, we spend our lives trying to climb the ladder of success, only to discover that we’ve leaned the ladder against the wrong building.
There is a list that I provide for people from time to time. It can be found by googling “Who You Are in Christ.” It is a list of about 27 Bible verses with captions attached like, “I am loved – John 3:16.” I review the list myself from time to time and never fail to find it refreshing as I evaluate and establish my self-image based upon how God views me.
How we view ourselves can have far-reaching and potentially solemn repercussions.
A man whom I was very fond of was filled with self-disgust. Over the course of time, the fact that he despised his less than exemplary father became apparent. In dramatically oversimplified fashion, this seemed to hinder his ability to connect with the Heavenly Father and in turn his own lifestyle became much less than ideal. He had many friends and a family that loved him, but ultimately he took his own life. If he had valued himself as God and the rest of us did, he would probably still be with us.
God’s love for us is not based on our performance or acquisitions and it is not affected by time, for His love is eternal. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)