Friday, January 30, 2015

How to Inherit Eternal Life, part 20: How we love ourselves

Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? " And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." (Luke 10:36-37 NASB)

"Go and do the same," Jesus told the lawyer. The original question was, "What do I do to inherit eternal life." Jesus asked him, "What does the law say?" and the man replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus affirmed his answer. "Do this and you will live." Not content, the lawyer said, "But who is my neighbor?" In response, Jesus told the story of the kind Samaritan. "Which of the three people was a neighbor to the man?" Of course, the only answer the lawyer could give was that the one who showed kindness to the wounded man was the one who loved his neighbor. "You go and do the same," Jesus told him.

It's His command for us, too. "God and do the same." We are not only to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This loving our neighbor goes hand in hand with loving our God. In fact, they are inseparable. In a way, loving our neighbor is an outward demonstration of our inward love for our God. 

If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, in the way of the Samaritan, what does that mean for our lives? Perhaps we would do well to see the ways in which we love ourselves. We provide food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, travel, and luxuries, both in our homes and personally, for ourselves. We (myself included) have housing that is not just sufficient but is extravagant. The average new home size in China is 646 sq ft, Hong Kong 484 sq ft, United Kingdom 818 sq ft, Sweden 893 sq ft, France 1206 sq ft, and that square footage is sufficient for a family, not just a single person. The average new home size in the United States is 2,164 sq ft. (You can read more about this here.

In addition to housing, we provide food for ourselves. I really prefer home grown, organic food with a nice variety. The average daily calorie consumption in the US is 3,770 calories per day, in Nigeria 2710 per day, in the Congo 1590. (Read more here and here

There is also the issue of clothing. I have a friend who drastically limits the number of clothes in her closet. She buys a few new things every season and gives away something from her closet every time she buys something new. I, on the other hand, have what is probably an outrageous number of clothes in my closets. That there are children around the world who are cold in the winter is unconscionable.

There are two articles on poverty that you would do well to read. The first gives data on poverty in the US, the second gives data on poverty worldwide. I think they will be eyeopening for you. 

We live in a tremendously affluent nation. Even the poorest among us still have wealth in comparison with much of the world today. If we loved our neighbor as we love ourselves, with the same measure, with the same generosity that we loved ourselves, this would not be. 

Only God can tell you what your response to loving your neighbor should be, but perhaps we would do well to love ourselves a little less well and love our neighbors a little more. The problem, it appears, is that, though we may love our neighbors a bit, we do not love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. 

I read the words of Christ and cringe. He did not tell us to love our neighbor a little bit, to love them when we feel like it, or to love ourselves much more than we love our neighbors. He said to love our neighbors as (in the same way) that we love ourselves. How much, in what ways, do we demonstrate our love for ourselves? How much, in what ways, do we demonstrate our love for our neighbors in need? 

If the way we love our neighbor is a reflection of how we love our God, what does the way that we love our neighbors say about how much we love the Lord our God?

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.  Go and do the same." (Luke 10:27,37 NASB)