What Does it Mean to Love Others as Ourselves?

When we decide to love others as ourselves, we must first consider carefully what ‘loving others’ means and determine how we can best develop a lifestyle on this basis. For many of us religious rules are the only guidelines we know, so we don’t automatically understand how to love others as ourselves.

We cannot turn to legalistic believers to answer the question, as their idea of living ethically focuses on rules instead of love. We cannot look to culture or popular consensus because they are often self-centered and interested only in loving those of their own group, and this leads to pain and suffering for others.

The best source for answering ‘What does it mean to love others as ourselves?’ is Jesus himself.

Love Your Neighbor

What Jesus Says about Loving Others

Jesus’ best-known statement about loving others is found in Luke 10:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Significantly, just before saying this, Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart and mind. But we can’t love God if we think he is angry and vindictive toward us.

Jesus demonstrates, however, that the Father is not angry and vindictive but loves us and desires the best for us, so our loving the Father is responsive to his love. And once we understand that he loves us unconditionally, we can begin to truly love ourselves, and only then are we in the position to love others as ourselves. We do so in the light of the Father’s love for all of us.

We might ask the reasonable question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ And the answer, based on Jesus’ teaching and example, is everyone. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan answers this question very well. Jesus also goes so far as to tell us to love our enemies; how inclusive is that!

Notice How Jesus Treats Others

If we read the four accounts of Jesus’ words and actions, we find that he models loving others. He treats others with care and compassion. He does not judge them but welcomes them to follow him in a new community of mutual love and reconciliation. He never rails at anyone for their shortcomings, but rather invites them to a new way of life.

He always has their best interest in mind—both inward and outward. He never ‘loves the sinner but hates the sin’; he accepts them as they are and brings them into a new life. He shows them love instead of chiding them for their flaws.

There was only one group for whom Jesus had stern words—legalists who tried to burden the common people with religious rules. But Jesus loved even the legalists; he had their best interest in mind too, and many of them followed him into the new community. He still loves legalists today and invites them into a new way of life in loving others.

Growing in Love by Staying Connected with Jesus

When we begin following Jesus we are not perfect in loving others, but he accepts us just as we are without preconditions. And then something happens: we begin to change! The more we learn about Jesus, the more we change for the better. He helps us change, so we are not on our own.

A good way to think about this is found in Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and branches reported in John 15. He says,

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Remaining in Jesus means cooperating with the changes in our thoughts and actions that come with following him. Otherwise, we are like dry branches that take no nourishment from the vine; we wither away. This metaphor is not a threat but simply describes what happens to branches that don’t participate in the life of the vine.

If we do not cooperate with the changes, we can maintain our old condition for as long as we want and not be punished. But we will produce bad consequences by hurting ourselves and others, and we will miss out on benefits of following Jesus. In our stunted state we continue feeling alienated because of the guilt we feel from our behavior, and we will not have the peace, joy, and happiness that should go with life in Jesus.

Instead we will be dry, withered, and fruitless.

Loving Others Means having Their Best Interest in Mind

The way for followers of Jesus to begin loving people as themselves is to love them as Jesus loves them—by having their best interest in mind. Achieving this, however, requires a proactive approach. We will talk about this next time.

The purpose of this blog is to support those re-evaluating traditional religious beliefs.
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Have a great day! ~Tim
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16 Responses to What Does it Mean to Love Others as Ourselves?

  1. michaeleeast says:

    Excellent post Tim.
    To follow what Jesus says, does, and is in relation to love
    is the highest example.
    I would suggest, however, that his love for the Pharisees
    did not manifest until he was on the cross.

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thank you Michael.

      Your comment about the Pharisees is interesting. I think Jesus loved them just as he loved everyone else (I consider his gentle discussion with Nicodemus). In what way do you think his love was not manifest until the cross?

      Like

      • michaeleeast says:

        I think that his sharp criticism of the Pharisees was not loving them so much as loving those under them.
        It was traditional for prophets to criticize the religious leaders in Jerusalem. I think this was what got him killed.

        Like

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          I think I understand what you are saying.

          Jesus was stern with the Pharisees in their oppression of the common people, but I think he still loved them, individually, as much as he loved anyone. I believe he had their best interest in mind, as well, and pushed them harder to understand God’s new community because they were so self-righteous and blind.

          Like

  2. Eric says:

    Great message Tim! I think it’s core to the Christian message, and also that you note that it is very hard to “love our neighbor” if we are not plugged in to love (the vine) so it comes from overflow and not from our own shame or guilt.

    Like

  3. sheila0405 says:

    Keeping the best interest of others in mind: simple and beautifully put!

    Like

  4. Chas says:

    Tim, Our childhood is when most of what comes out of us, as adults, went in. Your use of the word ‘stunted’ is important, because it shows how we might be suffering, as adults, if we were not loved enough as children. What comes out is not feeling good about ourselves and therefore not loving ourselves enough. This is important, as it affects how we feel about God and about other people. How can we love Him, or anyone else, properly if we do not know how to do? Once we have been brought into the Presence of God, through belief in Jesus, the first thing that God will do, in these circumstances, is to heal our hurts, because only then are we equipped to love first ourselves and then others.

    Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, I believe you are right on target. Much of the twistedness and brokenness of our relationships come from our childhood and need healing. But often we continue to have hits to our capacity to love even after childhood.

      We need to learn to love and grow in love, However, we can only start where we are–wherever that is.

      Like

      • michaeleeast says:

        This is an important message.
        And not irrelevant to our attitude to the Pharisees.
        What experiences had led them to their blindness and corruption?
        It is possible to have compassion even for them.

        Like

        • Marc says:

          Michael,
          God wrote the book on tough love. The Lord has many therapies to soften a hard heart. Some of those therapies can be quite harsh. Just as a surgeon often has to cause pain to bring about healing, the Lord’s judgments can be very painful.

          Like

  5. Pingback: How Does Loving Others as Yourself Apply to Divorce? | Jesus Without Baggage

  6. Pingback: Establishing Personal Behavioral Guidelines for Loving Others | Jesus Without Baggage

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