I’m fascinated by the idea of loving someone “as yourself,” and have spent an awful lot of time pondering the meaning, the possibilities, and the difficulties with loving someone else using the same means and measure in which we love and care for ourselves. In a culture as individualistic as the one in which we live, how rare is it we find someone who cares just as much about someone else’s needs as they do about their own. What would it even look like for one person to give up their individual rights, their individual freedoms, and their individual luxuries for the shared rights, shared freedoms, and shared luxuries of the community. Who in their right mind would give of their voice to a child who doesn’t have one, or give of their own food or property to those who have found themselves without. What kind of person chooses to give up what is rightfully theirs to keep. Who would give up their own life, their own desires, their own dreams, their own God-given resources for someone else.
Jesus often gave instructions that pointed to the heart of this concept, the one that comes to mind first for me is this one:
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. “
I’ve always seen this particular teaching of Jesus’ to be extreme and radical because it goes against the way most of us live today. All of Jesus’ teachings teach us to love but were not meant to follow them as one follows a law, but we follow the spirit in which each instruction was given. We follow love. We give our shirt to the man who sues us because he is a man in need, because we love him, his needs our like our needs. The person who forces us to go along with them for a mile, we happily go two, for maybe they just need a friend and we know what that’s like, no man should be friendless. And when our neighbors, friends, family, or even our enemies ask or require something of us, we are to consider, what if it were me?
For the young and for the innocent, this instruction, to love others as yourself comes really easy, almost natural. It’s not rare to see this type of love in our children, for example, the time a young a boy begged his mom to get McDonald’s for the homeless guy on the corner, or the little girl who gave the contents of her entire piggy bank to the missionary who spoke at church. But life often takes away more than it gives and one of the things it subtracts from our lives is our ability or willingness to love others as ourselves. Most of us began in our young life, giving, loving, sharing as if others were just as important as ourselves, but then something happened: someone we gave to, took to much, walked away with a piece of our soul, or spit in our face. The result of which is a heart that’s less open, less warm, less willing to give, to share, and to love, taking our natural ability to love others as ourselves and replacing it with a constant struggle to force ourselves back open. The truth is to love someone as yourself, is to take a risk, to put your heart and soul on the line on a regular basis. And inevitably, we all get hurt. So what then? How do we get back to where we once were? The answer to this question is far from simple, I think when it gets to that point, we only have one choice and that’s to lean on the words of Jesus, that if we ask of Him, we will receive.
Lord, knowing that this is the story behind the current condition of my heart, and my soul I call for, I beg, I plead, I desperately cry out asking for the restoration of my innocence, my warm and open heart, the chunk of my soul that disappeared. I pray that you do the same for all who find themselves here. I ask that you begin to change the fundamentals that are shaping the world around us from the mindset of the individual into the mindset of the community. Revive in me the ability to love others as myself.