It’s such a lovely Bible passage, one that even non-Christians try to embrace: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). But what does it really mean? Some theologians say it might be the most important question we ask about Christ’s gospel.
Jesus was being tested by the Pharisees, the chief religious rulers of the day: “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself”’” (Matthew 22:36-39).
When I was a kid, that entire passage confused me greatly. Many times I didn’t really love myself, and I certainly didn’t feel lovable before God. So was I supposed to love others as poorly as I loved myself? It didn’t make sense. But when I realized that if I focus on his greatest commandment to love him, his perfect love then flows through me—to not only love myself greatly but in turn to love other people just as strongly.
What a joy it is to be able to understand what it means to love God with all my heart and mind, although imperfectly. Through that understanding, I have grown to recognize that each person around me is a soul for whom Christ died and one to be loved as I am now loving myself!