In last month’s worship service we heard from Romans 8 which tells us that “nothing can separate us from God’s love.’ At today’s service we heard from the book of Mark. Here Jesus was asked about the most important commandment and: Jesus said, “The first in importance is, “Love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.” (Mark 12: 28-31 The Message) The first commandment is easy-ish, right? Love a higher power. Acknowledge and love that there is something bigger than you or I out there. Love God, love creation, love the source of love that is at the root of all that is within us and around us.
The second commandment, “love others as yourself” is maybe a little trickier. We talked about what is implied here. In order to love others as you love yourself, then you must first love yourself. So many times it’s easier to do things for others, to help others, to love others, but maybe not so easy to love ourselves. Maybe we’re mired in guilt, or shame by what we may have done or what may have happened to us. Maybe the messages we’ve heard from family or the community have imprinted in our brains in a negative way and have defined us in a way that does not reflect our true selves. I was recently told by a lovely man in his 70’s that he was called ungrateful when he was 9 years old and he has held onto that for over 60 years, defining himself and living his life thinking he was ungrateful.
It’s complicated, and yet it’s not. If God loves us unconditionally, if God finds us loveable (and God does!), then who are we to argue with that? God loves you, you are loved and loveable (No Matter What!,) and out of that love you can love yourself and extend that love to others. Warts and all: we are loveable and you are loved. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself. Love yourself enough to find healthy and loving relationships. Love yourself enough so that you have the strength to love others. I promise that if we extend love to ourselves then our connection to God and our love for others will bloom and grow like beautiful wildflowers.