Monday, January 27, 2020

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR



All truth is God’s truth. I believe that. I believe that regardless of the source on this plane of existence, when truth comes forth, it is from God.

However, recognizing the truth when it is presented is not always easy. For instance, what is the truth about climate change/global warming? Scientists of high caliber stand on either side of the issue—some crying “hoax,” while others scream “warning!” What is the truth?

Some things are presented as the truth without there ever being two sides. Scientists may declare something and the populace buys it without thinking through the ramifications. Such is the case with the self-esteem movement.

This movement caught on and continues today through what is often called “pop psychology.” The term is defined by Dictionary.com as—"psychological or pseudopsychological counseling, interpretations, concepts, terminology, etc., often simplistic or superficial, popularized by certain personalities, magazine articles, television shows, advice columns, or the like, that influence the general public.”

Many are the fallacies associated with the self-esteem movement, but this is not the place to list or discuss them. The Church has picked up on many of these and they are taught from our pulpits and promulgated in our books. Because much of the self-esteem movement was directed at our children, we are only now beginning to see the rotten fruit coming forth.

I want to examine only one aspect of the rotten fruit in this article, and that is the necessity to love yourself. The Church is responsible for this rottenness moreso than some atheist in an ivory tower of academia.

We have taken the pop-concepts of self-esteem and used them to interpret the Bible, rather than interpreting the concepts with the Bible.

Let’s consider the Two Great Commandments that Jesus gave us in Matthew 22.
36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:36-39 ESV)

Verse 39 is taught as “You cannot love your neighbor until you love yourself.” Is that what Jesus implied? He certainly did not state it plainly here or anywhere else in the Gospels. Neither is it stated in such a way in any other part of the Bible.

So, how did we come to that conclusion?

I am not exactly sure, but it appears to me that we looked around and saw what people were doing to each other, discovered a common factor of low self-esteem, and said that is what needs to be fixed. Pop psychology run amok.

As we look through the Bible at the many stories, one thing that stands out is the self-centeredness of every sin presented for our consideration. Adam and Eve, Abraham lying about Sarai, David and Bathsheba, Judas, Simon the Sorcerer are only a few, but are relatively familiar.

Self-centeredness is self-love. It is certainly not a good quality of self-love, but it is still self-love.

Taking Jesus’ words as they stand we have this interpretation—“You love yourself. Love your neighbor likewise. You focus your attention on yourself. Focus, instead, on your neighbor.”

In my experience, I have found that the mis-interpretation of this verse is difficult to overcome. People are highly invested in the teaching. Could it be because they are so highly invested in themselves?

However, for the sake of argument, I will concede that they may be right. One cannot love another until they first learn to love themselves. However, if that is true, how does it affect the first of the Great Commandments—to love God? Obviously, taking the argument that one cannot love their neighbor until one first learns to love oneself, then one cannot love God for the same reason. Surely you can see the error of such thinking that we must love ourselves first?!?

So far, though, I have only used a logical argument to try to defeat a logical argument. What does the Scripture say?
Consider Rom 13:9 (ESV)—For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Are we to believe that until we learn to love ourselves we will murder, steal, commit adultery, lie, etc.? Pop psychology run amok.

Almost all Christians hold that the 10 Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not the 10 Suggestions.

Look at the verse again. Loving your neighbor means that you will not commit murder. Loving your neighbor means that you won’t steal. Loving your neighbor means that you won’t commit adultery. Rather than focus on each of the individual laws, though, Paul says that if we will love our neighbor, we won’t do those things. However, Paul did NOT say love yourself first so that you can accomplish the law.

We have become almost obsessed with ourselves in this age. I am sure this false teaching has made somewhat of a contribution. It is a fulfillment of that which was prophesied by Paul in 2Tim 3:2—For people will be lovers of self, … (ESV)

This false concept also fails to consider one of the prime aspects of Scripture—We love because he first loved us. (1Jn 4:19 ESV)

In and of ourselves, we are incapable of love in the degree we are taught to uphold (Jn. 15:5). Therefore, in order to love oneself, one must first come to the Author of love.

I offer for your consideration the verses where the thought of loving your neighbor as yourself are presented. I give them in order as they appear in the Bible and without context.

(Lev 19:18 ESV) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Mat 19:19 ESV) Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(Mat 22:39 ESV) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(Mar 12:31 ESV) The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
(Rom 13:9 ESV) For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(Gal 5:14 ESV) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(Jas 2:8 ESV) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.
(Luk 10:27 ESV) And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

I have probably not done well in trying to present my argument or my passion to do away with this lie. May the Lord grant understanding and mercy.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. You presented it wonderfully, rationally, and anyone with a true ear to hear must surely do so. Jesus KNEW we loved ourselves; it's a given. So that was His starting point in showing us how to love others.

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