Does Jesus Command Us to Love Ourselves?
Question: I was talking with some friends at bible study. We were talking about the two great commands and we were debating if the second greatest command, as Jesus explains it, is also a command to love yourself. I don’t think it is. What do you think?
Short answer: No. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is not a command to love yourself.
The point of the command has nothing to do with loving ourselves. If we are in our right minds, we already love ourselves. We naturally clothe, feed, and care for ourselves. The point is that we are to love others, as we already love ourselves. What does that look like in action?
We are to feed our hungry neighbour, as we feed ourselves.
We are to shelter our homeless neighbour, as we shelter ourselves.
We are to clothe the poor, as we clothe ourselves.
We are to help our jobless neighbour, as much as we are grateful for own jobs.
We are to adopt the orphan, as much as we are grateful for God’s adoption of us through Jesus Christ.
We are to prepare a room for the lost, the refugee, the unlovable, as Jesus prepares a room for us in his father’s house.
We are to seek to share the gospel of salvation of the lost, as much as we are grateful for our own salvation.
Jesus expands on this even further when he says in John, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Love each other,
Let’s consider what love he has shown.
He took our humanity upon himself…for us.
He lived a perfectly sinless life…for us.
He was betrayed…for us.
Wrongly accused…for us.
Stripped naked, humiliated, and whipped…for us.
Hung on a cross…for us.
Suffered and died…for us.
He rose again, defeating sin and death…for us.
The point of the second greatest command is not to love yourself. That is easy. The point is to love others. Which is not so easy. We are to love each other as Jesus loved us. Which is impossible. The point is that we cannot keep this command perfectly as Jesus did.
As the Heidelberg Catechism says in Lord’s Day 44
In this life even the holiest
have only a small beginning
of this obedience.
Nevertheless, with earnest purpose
they do begin to live
not only according to some
but to all the commandments of God.
Even though we are unable in ourselves to keep this command to love others perfectly, we get to look to Jesus. We ought not get discouraged. We have an advocate in Heaven! He is before the throne of the Father, mediating…for us…on our behalf.
He declares to the Father that he has kept the second greatest commandment perfectly…for us.