Love your neighbor as yourself is the second of Jesus’ Two Great Commandments. And it is the proof that we love God with all of ourselves. If we can love our neighbors, then we are following and fulfilling all the laws in the Old Testament and Jesus’ comprehensive two commandments which include all the laws and the prophets. No longer do we condemn others for their sins or judge them; no longer do we put ourselves first above all others; no longer do we reject our neighbors. In reading the Sermon on the Mount we see that Jesus is even calling us to love our enemies, the foreigner, the outcast, the poor, those who mourn, the meek, the persecuted and the peacemakers—and more.
This is one of the most difficult of Jesus’s teachings for us. And we cannot do this on our own, without God’s help. It takes a lot of the Lord’s healing of our own pain and suffering which can blind us to others’ pain. It takes a lot of willingness on our part to live in the truth about ourselves before God, not an easy task either. We must allow God to heal our sin and pain, if we are to treat other people, especially those who are different from us with love and compassion and forgiveness.
To give space for other people to be who they really are, we have to have given that space to ourselves first, as God has given it to all of us. This is love. For how could we give to others what we have never experienced? When I think about God’s love for us, I wonder how many of us actually feel God’s love in our bodies, and minds and hearts and souls. We can know with our minds that God loves us, it says so in the Bible, but do we actually love ourselves? For how can we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, as Jesus commands without first turning our capacity for love on ourselves. We cannot give out what we have not yet experienced.
For me it has taken a decision: that if God can love me, surely, I can love myself. I have looked at each instance of falling short in my life and seen it anew with loving, forgiving, merciful eyes. After all, I am the sum total of all that I have done and all that has been done to me. And so I learned to look at myself with new eyes instead of the fearful, anxious and doubting eyes with which I previously judged myself. After I made that decision, I have been able sometimes to feel God’s love which I never felt before. And I am much less judgmental of others. I have been reading and listening to people who are different from me without judgment, but with understanding and caring eyes.
I have held sick babies in Haiti and mourned that they would never have the things that I think, with my middle-class American mind, every child should have to succeed in this life. I have worked with Haitian children who are paralyzed and unable to speak and felt that they would still have chosen this life that they were given. I have interviewed for Crisis Assistance Ministry here in Charlotte people who were unable to pay their telephone bill or rent. I have worked with a few hospice patients. I am reading black authors and books about how the other half lives in this country. I am trying as God leads me to educate myself about all peoples and their struggles and gifts. I am trying to become a member of the human race who is like every other person on earth, so that I am not separate from them, but a part of the whole community of people who were created by God, in His image.G
This is quite a task for a white, middle-class woman who married into a wealthy family, but who did not live a wealth-filled life. Even so, I am so privileged in this country where money and skin-color determine how one is treated. I now separate myself out from that privilege and try to live embracing everyone. I believe this is what Jesus lived and taught us. What I have learned is that by embracing all kinds of people, I am also embracing all the different parts of myself; I am more at peace than I have ever been; I do love myself through God’s love and I share that love with others.
I don’t want to sound like I’ve made it; I haven’t. But I do feel I am on that road to embracing everyone for who they are and what they can contribute to life. God has led me this far and I have learned that “the journey itself is home.” It’s a new direction/home for me and yet one I feel increasingly comfortable on.
Questions to ponder over the week/weekend: Am I able to love myself? Just as I am, warts and all? If not, what is it that blocks me from loving myself? What abuse or pain and suffering caused by others or that I caused is the problem? Wouldn’t it be the best thing ever for me to be able to feel God’s love for me? Doesn’t so much else in my life depend on seeing myself clearly and with love? How can I ever fulfill my purpose, my very creation without that love?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can truly love our God, ourselves, and our neighbor. May we be Jesus’s message to the world: that we all truly belong to God and are invited to live in His love always.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 10.15.19s is entitled, “Be still.”
 Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28
 Matthew 7:1-5
 Matthew 5:44
 Matthew 5:2-10
 Matthew 7:3-5
G Genesis 1:17
 Roderick MacIver, The Journey Itself Is Home, a box including 26 poems and 53 prints of his watercolors and acrylic ink paintings.