Lesson 3: Loving our neighbor as ourselves wouldn’t be so hard if we didn’t love ourselves so much.
The title seems to be somewhat self explanatory but this last week in Helen, GA taught me how much I love myself and how this creates a predicament when it comes to loving my neighbor. It seems like a crazy idea to love someone the same way that you love yourself. And that is because it isn’t natural. We naturally love ourselves and the things that make us feel loved. In fact, oftentimes, our love for ourselves steps in front of our love for Christ.
A book I read recently discussed this issue and titled the chapter, “Breaking up with myself.” Taking the focus off of me is tough in a society where everything accommodates me. And that is why I am thankful for the people I have come in contact with in Appalachia. Each week mission teams show up to work on home repair projects and the homeowners are overtaken with gratitude. Although the house is usually in serious need of help, they often try to redirect the groups to help someone who needs it more. And when the groups get to work, the neighbors often come over not to express how they want the same thing, but how great it is that this is getting done. Why don’t they love themselves like I do? Or better, why don’t I love myself like they do?
How hard is it for these people to love their neighbor as themselves? The simple answer is: because their own desires aren’t the center of their lives. Last week we had a group clean a lady’s house and they decided to hold a yard sale. When they presented the homeowner with the money she immediately desired to return the money to them and let them do whatever they like with it. This isn’t natural for me.
So how does this happen? Jesus says that the first step is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. You can’t miss this. Loving God in this manner not only gives us the ability to love people like never before, but it also allows us to love ourselves less than is natural. Jeremiah puts it this way,
“This is what the Lord says: let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands Me and knows Me.”
This is how we reduce ourselves. So although we like to blame loving ourselves on our culture, or lifestyle, it may be because we simply don’t know God.
As for the YOM Appalachia team, we will be in Pikeville, KY this week for the first of two weeks here. This is a week of over 200 volunteers. Please pray that God will provide willing laborers to do his work. Continue to pray that God will move in Appalachia along with all of the other YOM sites.