God commands us to love each other as we love ourselves. Our first response to that might be, “I don’t love myself. Why that would be narcissistic, conceited, self serving.” None of us want to be those things. But let’s ponder how we treat ourselves for a while.
If we are tired, we give ourselves rest. If we are angry, we allow ourselves to vent. If we can avoid pain, we usually do. If we need comfort, we have our ways of getting it whether that is a candy bar or a “curl up” on the sofa to read a book. We are usually good to ourselves, and that is because we love ourselves. It takes grace to go beyond our limits, push ourselves out of our comfort zones, go without sleep or food and deny ourselves. God, I think, put that tension in us and He knows it is there. He knows that to do the impossible, go beyond our human nature, we have to grasp the supernatural and allow Him to give us what we need. He teaches us to receive grace from Him, and the more we do it, the better we get at it.
So how do we respond to others when they become tired and whiney, angry and caustic, weary and in need of comfort? How did Jesus love? He fed the hungry multitudes that had listened to Him so long they were hungry. He comforted the ones who mourned. He allowed Himself to be challenged by the woman at the well and answered her kindly. He was not centered on His own pain on the cross when the thief next to Him repented and wanted eternal life as Jesus was in excruciating pain and dying Himself.
Jesus was God, but He was also man. He suffered on this earth and He felt rejection, abuse, betrayal, discomfort, accusation, humiliation, and pain. He not only can identify with it, He overcame it all. He didn’t react to it or respond to it, because His kind of love was fixed on His Father’s love and His Father’s mission and because He prayed continually, I believe, for an uninterrupted flow of love to humanity. He came to show that God LOVED the World. He didn’t doubt He was loved and I don’t think He was ever in a hurry, scurrying about, fretting over the masses, trying to get to Jerusalem before dark to preach. I believe He moved about with serenity and peace, and that His face and His eyes were filled with love.
How many times have we gotten into self sacrificing and run out of strength and then we are useless. We can wear ourselves out “serving” others and not love ourselves or really achieve much with our serving. We know that is wrong and it doesn’t work. So how do we ever get to a place where we care for ourselves properly, and have enough love for others?
It is by grace and not by works. It is because we have received the Father’s love and we can spread it about, not because we know that it is right to love and we strive to love. We find our rest in Him and we love out of that place of rest. It is not simple to achieve, and yet when we find the place, it is the simplest and the purest thing there is.