Mark 12:28b-34 | 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Self- Love: The Basis of a Good and Godly Life
For some reason, when I read The Greatest Commandment in Mark this time, it struck me in a new way. I suppose I’ve always thought Jesus’s gist was, “Of course you love yourself—now love others that way.” But what if we don’t love ourselves? Loving ourselves doesn’t mean we think we’re perfect, but it does mean we treat ourselves with kindness and compassion. But if we don’t think of ourselves as people who deserve love, we can’t begin to know how to treat others as God wants us to. Perhaps self-love isn’t selfish. Perhaps it’s the basis of a good and Godly life.
What is the heart of self-love? I think it has to start with our relationship with God.
In authoritarian families, children’s behavior is considered a direct reflection on the parents. Self-image is important and punishment can be swift. Authoritarian parents need their children to behave a certain way for their own egos. But that is not how our Father parents—His self-image is just fine. God doesn’t need us. God wants us—God loves us and wants us to be in full communion with Him because then we will have true contentment.
God’s rules aren’t there so He can look good. He doesn’t need us to make Him look good. He is good. The rules are there to bring us closer to Him, to give us the gift of the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
In very primitive strokes, the old Covenant required following a set of established rules (over 700 of them!). Disobedience meant punishment that originated with either God or the community. But Jesus ushered in the new Covenant. He knew that its impossible for imperfect people to follow all those rules, and just as importantly, He also wanted to demonstrate that God is Love and Love desires relationship.
When we truly believe that God is on our “side,” we finally understand we are valuable just as we are, warts and all. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to work on our warts, but it does mean that the warts don’t make us less human or less loved. When we are able to let ourselves be fully loved, warts and all, how can we not extend that grace to others?
I think this is the essence of The Great Commandment: to understand that the love of God is total and all-encompassing, that we are loved just as we are, and moreover, He doesn’t demand that we be different. How can we not love a Being who loves us like that? Once we truly grasp the personal and reciprocal nature of God’s love, then we feel compelled to share it, on the same terms, and love others just as they are without demanding change. When we fully comprehend the freedom inherent in God’s love, anything becomes possible for us, for others, and for the world.