Jesus said … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”KJV Matt. 22:37-40.
When a man is aligned with himself and his intent is pure (i.e., without internal conflict) he is at his most powerful. He is most able to resist the false teachings and influences of other people and institutions which seek to corrupt his intent and lead him astray. When he has internal conflict, he is not at his most powerful and becomes more susceptible to corruption. Perhaps the internal conflict is a sign of this corruption, that a foreign idea or intention in conflict with his own has been inserted and internalized by that man. Jesus expresses a similar idea when he says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. KJV Matt. 6:24. When a man is aligned with himself, he holds an intention with all his heart, soul and mind.
The message of Christ in Matthew 22:37-40 is to love God with this purity of intent. It is the “first and great” commandment. The second, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is “like unto it”, which I take to mean of similar importance and of similar meaning.
I have witnessed some debate on the Orthosphere as to the meaning of “neighbor” in this context. Does neighbor mean “those living in close proximity with oneself”? Does it mean “one’s kinfolk”? In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), Jesus defines neighbor as one who shows mercy on another. This seems to discount the “kinsfolk” definition as it was a Samaritan who showed mercy upon a Jew in the parable. However, it could be argued that kinsfolk are typically the ones showing mercy upon each other and are therefore neighbors to each other. Among the Orthosperean debates I have witnessed, I have read sentiments such as, “I don’t care about people living on the other side of the world whom I will never meet” (which raises the question as to why that same person would be so concerned about abortion practiced among people he has never met involving babies he also will never meet). Similarly, I have also read Orthospherean comments to the effect that “love and mercy should be naturally shown to one’s own”. This raises an interesting point.
When Jesus says “love thy neighbor as thyself” there is an implicit indication that one would naturally love himself. * I believe it is true that one should naturally love himself because when a person does not love himself, he is not in alignment with himself. I do not believe anyone can not love himself with all his, heart, soul and mind. There will always be some small part within him, his divine spark, that does love himself. But if that person has also been convinced by other people or institutions that he is unworthy, unlovable, disgusting etc. and he has internalized this position, he will naturally become unaligned and in conflict with himself. Moreover, when a person does not love himself with all his heart, soul and mind, he will become bitter and resentful and act accordingly. He will seek the approval of others in a needy and imposing way. By contrast when he does love himself, he will not need these external forms of validation and will then be able to extend love to others authentically and unconditionally.
I agree with that Orthospherean commenter I remember reading who said a person’s love naturally belongs with one’s own. But I wonder if he took this idea to its next logical step. If a person’s love naturally belongs with one’s own, then it must ultimately reside with oneself. This is no violation of the Great Commandment to say this because the second commandment is like unto the first and implicit within that second commandment is that one would naturally love himself. Therefore, it can be said that the love of oneself is the love of God or at least like unto it.
When a person truly loves himself he will exhibit certain qualities:
[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. Gal. 5:22.
[T]he fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Eph. 5:9.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor 13:4-7.
All these are qualities of a person who is in alignment with themselves and without the corruption of internalized false teachings from other people or institutions. Notice the absence of grumpiness, judgmentalism and shame. All the qualities described by Saint Paul are of a person who loves himself with all his heart, soul and mind. This is also the love of God. And it is this love that allows him to love his neighbor as the Lord commands. On this hangs all the law and the prophets.
*I once had an exchange with Thordaddy on this topic. He cleverly argued that because he did not love himself, he was under no obligation to love his neighbor per the plain meaning of the text. Although this I found this response interesting, I did not believe it to accord with the spirit of the text.