Loving God and Loving Self

When Christ told people to love God and love neighbor, I don’t recall anyone asking questions to define what loving God meant, but I do see people wondering about loving neighbor.

There is a tendency to think loving neighbor is harder. It may be, but let’s follow suit and ignore that loving God thing too. I’m sure we do that already.

Anyway, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is a fine sounding statement. One question I’ve heard in relation to this is, “Shouldn’t I learn to love myself first? I just need to accept me before I can accept others.”

Let me put this plainly and simply so as not to be confusing:

Drop your psychological crap.

People inherently love themselves. “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” We all love our flesh. Even those who torture themselves or even kill themselves are doing it for some perceived benefit to their self.

The fact that you are breathing shows you love yourself. To love someone else the way you love yourself means to do what is necessary to provide for their well-being. Something not easily done.

Interesting that Christ calls us to deny ourselves. Is denying ourselves the opposite of loving ourselves? It could be, unless denying yourself temporally means loving yourself for eternity! But if our love for self leads us to deny self are we then to deny others as we deny ourselves?

Wow, see how easy it is to get confused by this issue? Anything to avoid thinking about whether I love God enough.

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Loving God and Loving Neighbor

The two greatest commandments in the Bible are

1) Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
2) Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Question: Is it possible to love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love the Lord your God?

To a certain degree I think the answer is “yes.” Inherently we love ourselves. Even the heathen love their friends and family, even they know how to give gifts.

But I do think it is impossible to love your enemy, who may be your neighbor, without loving the Lord.

We love Him because He first loved us. When we see that while we were yet sinners, Christ demonstrated His love to us, we see that loving your enemy is something God does regularly and we were that enemy.

If we are at all impressed with this, it will show in our ability and desire to love even those who hate us, just as God did/does. Just as forgiveness is to be demonstrated by the forgiven sinner, so to is love.

You can surfacely love your neighbor apart from love of God, but I do think loving your enemy is purely Spirit-filled territory.

Wrong Loving of Neighbors

We all know that believers are to love their neighbor. We know the passages and parables that illustrate the point and we can even give examples of the times we perfectly fulfilled this command.

How much of our perceived love of neighbor is truly love of neighbor though? When I shovel the driveway for the old lady, is it really out of love or is it duty? Or is it to get $10? And do we get ticked off when she doesn’t pay us again? And if we do was it really loving our neighbor?

Here’s an example from Scripture that looked like loving the neighbor but was indeed very far from it. Ezekiel 23 compares Samaria and Jerusalem to two sisters who are whores. About Samaria it says:

“She doted on her lovers,
on the Assyrians her neighbours.”

Neighbor Assyria became her lover! Hey, she’s just loving her neighbor, why is she getting judgment from God? Picky, picky.

The love that God speaks of is a true love, not a true love as in a Princess Bride romantic true love, but a love in the truth. You are not loving your neighbor if it involves fornication or any other violation of God’s law.

Don’t let human definitions of love throw you off of God’s definition of love. Loving your neighbor means something specific and frequently does not look at all like love to the casual observer.

The Point of the Anti-Itch Meditation

What is the “Anti-Itch Meditation?”

It is clever, I’ll give you that! When I first thought of it I almost died laughing. But it’s not just clever, it also means something. Under my blog title it says: “2 Timothy 4:3. Doing my God-given duty to not tell you what you want to hear.”

2 Timothy 4:3 in the KJV says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”

Eventually, church will become a place of entertainment, a place to get our itching ears scratched, just tell us what we want to hear.

A prophet doesn’t tell people what they want to hear, nor what he thinks they need to hear, but rather, a man of God tells people what God wants people to hear.

The only way to do this is to constantly use the Word of God, the Bible, to confront mankind. Jesus was great at this. He was always quoting Scripture and frequently bringing up the most annoying verse He could possibly come up with.

It does not surprise me that people disagree with me on my blog, it’s kind of my point. However, it is not my point to get people to agree with me! I may not be right. It is my point to make sure people know what they believe.

I poke things, I listen to the response. I doubt I’ll change your mind, but I bet I can get you to think about stuff! That’s my hope and I trust that getting you to think about stuff leads you to God’s Word.

I love God’s Word and I want everyone to love it too. Especially because the Word is living and is Jesus Christ! He’s the only way to the Father. Think on the Word. Base everything on that.

Visiting Old Ladies

My father, who was a pastor, took me visiting when I was a child. I spent many an afternoon in an old lady’s living room sipping warm Diet Coke while my dad and old lady talked incessantly.

I hated every minute of it and I can’t stand Diet Coke. But it also taught me that it doesn’t matter if I like it or not, it’s the right thing to do. I’m glad my dad made me go.

All these years later I enjoy visiting the older folks (“older” is a relative term). Dread is not a word frequently associated with visiting any more. I do still hate Diet Coke, however.

Old ladies are plentiful and talkative once they get comfortable with you. Since there’s not much new going on with them, you will hear the same stories over and over, but get over it.

One thing I’ve noticed is that old ladies do not get visited much, even by their kids. They want to be, but they know they are a burden. I can’t even count how many times an old lady has told me her kids are too busy to come visit.

All of the excuses about being busy are just as true of me, yet I’m there and I’m not even related. They defend your absence and they defend you and it’s sad for both of us.

One lady tells me her son doesn’t visit because he’s allergic to cats. This lady is well aware of the fact that I’m allergic to cats, too. Yet I’m there pretty much every week petting her cat who has, of course, taken a liking to me.

Grow up kids! Especially you men. Visit your mother. If I can visit your mom, there’s no reason why you can’t. If mom lives too far away, then visit some other old lady and still find a way to talk with your mom.

And, while you’re there. put some real Coke in the fridge, some pastor will appreciate it.

Vanity, Vanity

I am reading Ecclesiastes with my 8-year old son. It’s funny. He’s trying to figure out why everything is meaningless, how can the Bible say that? “Who wrote this book again?” is his frequent question.

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books. I believe it presents the question that the rest of the Bible answers. If we just die and are forgotten, what’s the point?

Solomon’s answer is that nothing on this earth is the point. Everything on earth falls apart, dies, and melts away even out of our memory. Enjoy the good bits, but understand that even they are meaningless.

This is mind-blowing to an 8-year old. Life is open before him, there are so many things to learn and do. Then he’s told that all of it is meaningless.

Some Christians attempt to say that Ecclesiastes cannot be the mindset of a believer. I disagree whole-heartedly. be not conformed to the world; if all things will be dissolved, what manner of life ought we to live; no man can serve God and mammon, etc. It’s kind of a huge point in the Bible.

My son, growing in a culture that tells him to succeed, get educated, be a star, go for it, dream big, etc, needs to hear that all this is blather. Eternal things are the only things that matter, go after these.

Eight-year olds are not the only ones who need to hear this message.

Merry Christmas Anti-Itchers

Christmas is the time when we remember that God took on Himself human flesh and dwelt among us. The primary focus of Christ’s coming was to die, but too often we skip from birth to death with Jesus.

Take, for instance, the Apostle’s Creed. Mark the words:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried

Notice anything about the life of Christ according to the Apostle’s Creed? He was born and then boom, there He is suffering before Pilate as if nothing else happened. As if none of His life has any import at all whatsoever.

Which begs the question, why do the Gospels contain so much other information about Him? Mark and John even skip right over Christ’s birth. Why do we make so much over the beginning and the end and drop the middle?

Christ tells us why He came, why we have all that other information about Him:

*”I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
*”I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
*”I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
*”I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”

Jesus Christ came and lived to show us what it was like to obey the Father’s will, to give your life for others, to demonstrate the cost involved in truly doing God’s will.

We skip this part because it hurts. We don’t mind Christ being hurt for our sins, but us getting hurt? We’d rather not.

Christ came to be an example that we should follow His steps. Paul says to follow him as he follows Christ. We are to be built up into Christ with His mind dwelling in us. Hard to do that if you don’t know where He went or what He thought.

There are many reasons why Christ came. Ultimately it was for salvation to be offered to the whole world. But Christ also demonstrates how to live post-salvation.

Our fixation on the act of salvation far overshadows the life of salvation and I believe this distorts our view of the life of Christ. Celebrate the whole thing, not just the part where He’s a helpless baby or a helpless one being crucified.