3 Important Considerations in Loving Others as Ourselves

As we begin to live by the principle of loving others, instead of following religious rules, we sometimes meet two significant barriers. The first is dealing with the enormity of human pain, distress, and need in the world.

The second is encountering those who try to dictate to us how we must go about loving others. Both experiences can result in a heavy burden of guilt and feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. So, in this last post of the series I suggest three considerations for balance in loving others.

Jesus heart

Loving Those Who Touch Our Lives

I think we should begin with those who touch our lives through relationships or who personally come across our path.

Let’s consider our relationships with relatives, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, and others with whom we have regular interaction. Sometimes we have negative feelings and behavior even toward those we love the most. What can we change in ourselves to reduce or eliminate the pain we cause in our relationships?

I won’t suggest specifics, but I bet you already have a few thoughts just from reading the previous paragraph. We can’t fix everything about ourselves in a single step, because our negativity is very ingrained and has a long history, but by grasping the Father’s love for all of us, and trying to see others as he sees them, we can see tremendous change step-by-step.

We also need to love those we encounter but are not part of our relationships; the Father loves them as well. Whether it is responding kindly to insults and hostility, or whether it is helping a stranger in need, we can become better in interacting with them with love.

Loving Those We Never Know

There are also those we will never know who need our loving attention, including those who are hungry, oppressed, or otherwise in pain, along with those who cause hunger, oppression, and pain. The Father loves them all.

None of us can address all the need in the world, the nation, or even in our own community, but we can do something. And that something must be based on what our growing love for others prompts us to do.

But we should avoid legalism.

There are those who place love above following rules but also accuse believers of not doing it correctly. They judge by saying we should do more for this or that social cause, and they might point to Matthew 25 as their authority for telling us what we must do:

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.

This passage does, indeed, help us understand Jesus’ mind on loving others, but it is not a new list of religious rules for us to follow. Some people are drawn to dedicate their lives to a particular issue, while others support certain causes or help in some other way, but none of us can respond substantially to every cause. The pain in the world is great, and we must determine for ourselves how to show love to those outside our own circles.

What we do, based on love, trumps what anyone else thinks we should do. This is between us and the loving Father. I am very interested in your thoughts on loving others; I hope you will comment on them below.

Loving Those Who Don’t Love Others as We Do

There is one more group I want to consider as we love others as ourselves, and that is believers who do not love others as we do. It’s not they don’t try to love others, but they are so bound by harmful doctrines that their approach to love is severely compromised. As a result, they judge and condemn others whom they view as ‘sinners’ in some way.

They might even follow the maxim “Love the sinner; hate the sin”, but what the ‘sinner’ feels is hate and condemnation. These believers can claim it is important to identify and condemn sin in order to bring the ‘sinner’ to the Lord, but badgering unbelievers to follow Jesus is not the same as sharing Jesus with them, and identifying and condemning individual sin is not our job.

In fact, such activity is very damaging. It damages individuals; it damages relationships; and it damages the reputation of the community of believers. How should we respond to those who cause such damage? Do we despise them? Do we hate them? Do we take pleasure in their misfortune? Or do we love them as the Father loves them?

These questions lead to our new series on loving believers who hurt others by following and promoting harmful doctrines.

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Have a great day! ~Tim
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13 Responses to 3 Important Considerations in Loving Others as Ourselves

  1. michaeleeast says:

    The Church should be a center of the community which generates love from a firm foundation in the Love of God. Instead of telling everybody what to do we should be responding to their needs.
    Then the reputation of the Church will begin to change.

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  2. Pam says:

    Let me tell you my story. I think it will answer your question concerning how I love someone. Her name is Jennifer. I used to walk around in the building for exercise. I introduced myself to Jennifer. I started coming by her “house” to sit and watch television with her. I began to enjoy going to her “house.” I’d spend at least an hour to two hours with her. Just talking about whatever was going on. Our conversations did not become intimate until I started sharing Jesus with her. I found out that she was a young believer. Our friendship grew to the point where I tried to see her every day. We enjoyed each other’s company, and we began to pray together.

    When she had to be moved to the skilled nursing side, I really wanted to move in with her. I told the social worker that I wanted to move in with her, and it was a go. I learned to love her and care for her right where she was. I began to encourage her in the Word. I began to speak of the goodness of the Lord into her life, and I have seen her grow spiritually by leaps and bounds.

    We have come to be close to one another, and we pray over our meals each day. It just built up into a great relationship of love and concern.

    That’s how my relationship with Jennifer grew. I love her very much, and I accept her flaws and weaknesses. I know how to pray for her when I see these manifestations in her life. I have accepted her for who she is. That’s loving someone despite their flaws.

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  3. sheila0405 says:

    Sometimes just remaining civil when someone else is out of control can change the dynamic of a bad interaction. We need to ask the Father for wisdom on a case by case basis, as we encounter various situations in our lives. Thinking about the Father allows us to choose a better way when conflict erupts.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sheila, as is often the case, we seem to be on the same page with this issue. Of course, there are many others as well, but I would hope to see that number doubled and quadrupled as believer choose loving others over legalism.

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  4. Pingback: Loving Others as We Love Ourselves - Contemplative Theology : Contemplative Theology

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  6. Chas says:

    Tim, the passage from Matthew 25 is a powerfully legalistic, since it implies that if you fail to do one of these things (presumably during your life) you will be excluded from the Kingdom of God. In fact, the whole of Matthew 25 warns against behavior that might cause one to be excluded. However, on reading it again, the message that came out for me was that we should use any strengths we might have, whether natural, by anointing, or by Gifts of the Holy Spirit, to do what God wants us to do. In the case of my wife, who is a strong unbeliever, her strength is in engaging with people, both young and old, to make them smile and feel more cheerful. She can do it almost without trying, but when it comes to giving comfort to people who are depressed, she finds it very difficult and wearing, so she avoids it, if possible. This strength is a reflection of her father, who had the same gift to engage with people, but the difficulty with depressed people comes from giving comfort to her mother, late in her life when she was suffering from depression.

    This relates to something else in your post, which is where you noted the possible need to deal with those who CAUSE hunger, oppression, and pain, because these people could be multiplying these sufferings. They therefore need to be prevented from continuing these actions, through persuasion, by showing them the suffering they are causing (if they might be unaware), or by informing the civil authorities so they can prosecute them for their actions, if appropriate.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, what we have in chapter 25 are three parables, and the parables of Jesus were not to illustrate theological details but to make a point. I think each of these three parables about the kingdom of God, which is the community of believers, is that we should be about the business of the kingdom–living in, and spreading, the good news. The third parable focuses on one group of issues we should be about–helping those who are disadvantaged.

      And I think you are right on target that we should use those gifts that are ours instead of trying to do everything. Your wife’s story is a very good illustration of this, and I thank you for sharing it.

      I also like your statement about responding to those who cause damage to others:

      ‘They therefore need to be prevented from continuing these actions, through persuasion, by showing them the suffering they are causing (if they might be unaware), or by informing the civil authorities so they can prosecute them for their actions, if appropriate.’

      We absolutely should do this, but at the same time we should love as well because the Father loves them, though is a difficult thing for us to do.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, of course, for those who have difficulty in knowing what they should do to love others as they love themselves, there is the more straightforward: do to others as you would wish them to do to you.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, you are absolutely right! This is the key. Unless what you think you want is for them to hurt you in some way, which raises a separate issue.

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  7. Pingback: Is it Selfish for Us to Love Ourselves? | Jesus Without Baggage

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