It has become a common expression to say "love your neighbour as yourself when the subject matter of loving others is at stake. But there's a Latin adage that says nemo dat quod non habet which means 'you cannot give what you don't have'. This adage is true when it concerns loving others. If the measure of love I express or show to others is a function of the love I have for myself, then it could be disastrous because many persons don't really love themselves and many also have disordered affection for themselves. Therefore when people express themselves as having "self-love" or "self-crush", the question we are left to ask is: are these expressions borne out of 'true love' or of narcissism or egoism? What does the Bible truly teach us about love of God and neighbour? I know this is too deep, but read slowly...

Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’
1. To understand love Jesus tells us it must begin with an encounter with God because it "is the greatest and first commandment". Hence any expression that claims to be "love" but lacks the Divine or Spiritual element-God is simply emotions and not Love. An expression that has this Divine or Spiritual element must surely be moral, obeying divine natural law. Otherwise everything would pass for love such homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, Queerness, narcissism (which is excessive love of one's self which could lead to selfishness and inordinate sexual desire of one's self), fornication, adultery etc, because those who practice these claim they are expressing love to others and to themselves.
2. How then can we separate Love from other expressions claiming to be love? Love is identified by four elements that cannot be separated: Spiritual, Intellectual, Emotional and Physical.
[To know more about these elements read my post on LOVE: THE WATCHTOWER TO STAND AS WATCHMEN (No.3)]
True Love must be Spiritual for love originates from God. God is the measure of Love and True expression of love. Hence Jesus says love God with everything in you: heart, soul and mind, meaning that God should be the measure by which the heart (the seat of emotion) loves, by which the soul (which is the image of God in us) loves, and by which the mind (the seat of reasoning) loves. No wonder he says elsewhere, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34).
3. The second command obviously must resemble the first, as Jesus says. It resembles the first because God is the measure of Love. If our "self-love" is measured and regulated on how God loves us despite our frailties, then we must definitely Love our neighbours well, and not have disordered affections towards them. Love of neighbour is spiritual when we see others as God's image and likeness and thus treat them with dignity and respect. It is intellectual when we encounter people to know who really they are, know their situations, backgrounds, origins, worldviews; and respect and accept them for who they are. Love of neighbour is emotional when we are moved with affection towards others in their joys and sorrows. It is Physical when we donate ourselves generously as gifts to others through sacrifices, charity, almsgiving, improving living standards of others, ready to assist and offer hospitality even to strangers, give education, etc and sex which is permissible only in marriage.
[If you want a more practical application of these elements of love in Marriage and Courtship click here and read the paragraph titled DATING AND COURTSHIP]
4. Love begets Love; and love attracts love; hence it is not a surprising God created us out of love, and love is the reality in God. It is easier to say "I am healing, I shall be strong" after a heartbreak or after being jilted or betrayed by those we love and then we relapse into a kind of selfish love of the self. It could be more destructive than you think. We are created out of and for love, hence love is our first vocation. Everyone deserves love and desires love. Don't be closed to love, for that is your identity. Open up and be free.

TASK: If you sense unloved, not appreciated, heartbroken and closed to love others  because of your past God is interested to heal you and beautify you because He loves you, carefully and wonderfully made you. So pray now Psalm 139.

© Fr. SimOne Madu, OSJ

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