You may recognise the missing words in this blog’s title. You can find references to these words in the Old Testament: Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 10:19. Jesus drew upon these verses to most clearly establish the best way to live and can be found in Mark 12.31, Matthew 5:43-46, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:32-35 and Luke 10:27. As the full text is central to Jesus’s message why leave words out?
Well just reflect for a moment upon the words that are left: LOVE YOURSELF. This may seem a selfish way to go, but not so. The problem is that people are finding it increasingly hard to love themselves. Low self esteem is rife, particularly amongst the young. This leads to addictions and unwholesome relationships. Low self esteem is also a characteristic of bullying, loneliness and isolation. This can all be summed up as an inability to love oneself. Loving yourself really means loving the person God created you to be. Not some other, more glamorous, beautiful, perfect somebody else, but YOU!
Here is some sad news from the Guardian this week: ” an Indian husband and wife who fell to their deaths from a popular overlook at Yosemite national park in California were apparently taking a selfie, the man’s brother said on Tuesday.
Park rangers recovered the bodies of Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, on Thursday about 800ft (245 meters) below Taft Point, where visitors can walk to the edge of a vertigo-inducing granite ledge that doesn’t have a railing.”
This unfortunate couple are not the only ones who have died trying to get themselves into the best shot for a selfie. The selfie has become an artificial form of loving yourself. It has become THE way to show how beautiful, glamorous, adventurous, perfect you are. But the selfie is a sham. It fools you into thinking you are what you think you should be. It is not the REAL you. Learning how to love the real you is not easy I grant you. It took me half a lifetime to discover that truth.
I think this is what Jesus was really getting at when he said LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF. There they are, the missing words. The words that everyone focusses upon. Yes, they are important. Of course the Gospel truth is that we must learn to love our neighbours but how can we love others when we don’t even love ourselves. Just ourselves, imperfect as we are in our own eyes but always perfect in God’s eyes because we are made in God’s image.