Loving Others As Yourself: Simple Bible Study (Matthew 22)
In starting to study this section in Matthew 22, there were some things that were going on in our early marriage when we had to set some boundaries at the time.
We were having a bible study on the couch early one morning, thinking and praying, and we realized that there’ve been a couple of things in our early marriage that we needed to work on and have worked on since.
One of the things we needed to work on was our mindsets on balance, serving in church and community, and loving others as we love ourselves.
We felt like we haven’t really taken care of ourselves and spent time with each other. We have come to a realization that there’s a fine balance from what God has commanded in these verses.
From what we have read from Matthew 22, we understand that the Lord does not want us to be thrown off balance or feel like we are letting down others all the time. He calls for us to love Him and to love others as ourselves. Let’s read it:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind this is the first and greatest commandment and the second commandment is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)
Before we move on to the passion translation, we just want to say this version is more paraphrased from the ESV version we just read. We wanted to share this so you could really get the gist of what Jesus was saying exactly.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’”
-Matthew 22:37-39 (TPT)
Love Others and Love Yourself
So, this is an interesting take on these Bible verses on the two commands. Many people talk about, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, but people never really address the second command as much: love your friend in the same way you love yourself. There are two things addressed in this one: love others AS you love yourself.
Sometimes, we think to love ourselves is a selfish thing. To be totally focused on ourselves, practice self-care, saying no, and more. Yes, in a worldly way and point of view, it is selfish. And, you’re reading this, thinking, “Say what??” Hear us when we say this: in God’s way, it is not selfish. In God’s way, it is this: we choose to love ourselves by going to God first. Why this? Jesus, our Savior, did the same thing.
In reality, Jesus practiced self-care in a godly way: to be with His father. He actually left everyone, his disciples, friends, family members, and the crowd and went away alone to pray and get His thoughts, emotions, and heart prepared and filled up.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35
During that time, He wasn’t loving others, healing or serving other people. He was spending that time with himself and His father, God and so then we would love on others and serve them. Jesus needed to take time for Himself, just like us.
The issue is NOT that we do not love ourselves…we have no problem with that
We do not have a problem loving ourselves; actually, that is one of our biggest flaws as humans. We naturally think about ourselves, what we want, what we desire, and just loving ourselves so much.
But, our point is that in the same way we love ourselves is how we are called to love our neighbors, our friends, and the person next to you.
The Issue is that we choose to deny ourselves OF ANYTHING as Christians because of the church
But, sometimes, we can get it twisted in today’s church, a legalistic rule we believe in our hearts, that we do not deserve anything, no breaks, no stopping, and serving endlessly. And, that is where we are at in this blog post’s Bible study and what we want to address.
Most of us could say that we’ve been caught in a loop, a trap, or the rat race of such. It can be like a cycle of loving others all the time and then we have sometimes forgotten to love ourselves. Loving others can become exhausting and overwhelming, and almost becomes a bitter thing. This can easily be misread or misinterpreted, when your love becomes imbalanced.
A Background Story
For me, (Lianna), I grew up only 5 minutes away from my church. and I was born and raised in the same area and went to the same church that my mom worked at. I believed that if you serve, you are loving others. And, to an extent, that is true.
However, there is a stigma that if you are young, single, a college or high school student, you have all the time and resources in the world, and you are only 5 minutes away from your church, what excuses do you have to not serve? Nothing should be holding you back from serving. And, I loved to serve…most of the time.
But, then I got married, and I moved 30 minutes away from my church with my husband. I know, that is not that far away but when you input gas money, then you might understand. Serving became harder for me to do and I had to serve less.
I had this rule in my head (by the way, my parents did not teach me this; I did on my own): I believed that if I was not serving as much as I was, I was not loving enough and doing enough.
My husband, David, really had to really help me open my eyes to the ways that we serve others are not the only way to love others. But, I felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn’t loving people if I wasn’t doing “my time of serving”.
Overtime, I had to learn that is not true and I am doing what I can to serve and love the people around me, not just in church. And, learn not to hate myself. These Bible verses tell us clearly to love others as yourself.
Jesus really wants us to love others as we love ourselves and have a relationship with Him. Jesus took the time to have a relationship with His father. Why can’t we do the same?
Jesus withdrew, prayed and drew his strength and his resources from the Lord before he went and served and loved on others, prayed for others and did miracles. Jesus did this to set an example for us, how He made sure He was filled up first by His father before He resumed His ministry for the day.
Jesus also took the time to pray in the middle of the night in the Garden of Gethsemane right before He was arrested and led to die by crucifixion on the cross. Jesus, while His disciples were sleeping, prayed and cried out to God for the strength to carry out His will to die.
Now what about self-care?
Now, we want to address self-care. We believe self-care is okay because you’re being mindful of what your body needs. For example, you need to take a 15-30 minute nap because you stayed up late last night.
But at the same time, if you’re spending a lot of money on getting your hair or like getting your nails done or getting new shoes or whatever the case may be all the time, then that is not what we are subscribing to. The type of self-care or loving others as yourself is to be sure you are gaining strength, insights, and direction from God first and the rest will follow for yourself, your body, your mind, and for your soul.
For us, we know the first self-care we do is to choose to go to the Lord in the morning (or at night, for you night owls) and have that quiet time with Him first. A definition of loving yourself as a Christian is to look to Jesus first as your strength, your source of living water, your peace, and your purpose and intentionally making that time for it.
But, don’t get it twisted when we say self-care means you have a day off for yourself all the time, go on retreats for yourself, leave everybody behind, and not care for anyone but yourself. That is not what God is commanding.
He commanded us to love others too as the way we love ourselves. His purpose for us is to share the Good News of hope, of redemption, of salvation to others, to our neighbors. But, we cannot do that if we are too busy selfishly and worldly loving ourselves.
But, it is okay to say no to serving every single week and decide to serve 1-2 times a month, especially during a busy season. It is okay to set boundaries when people are texting or calling you past 10 pm. It is okay to create margin and space in your calendar to have your quiet time and prayer or even spend time with your spouse, family, or friends that you haven’t seen in a while instead of filling it with events and activities to serve or help out.
We cannot pour out from an empty cup. We cannot serve out in obligation or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).
Our cup needs to be filled with God and His Word. And, in turn, we can pour out His blessings in our lives onto others around us.
Our hearts will continually want to serve others when we are seeking Jesus in our own time. That is truly how we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Thank you for reading,