In Germany it has become very common to say that in order to love others, you first have to love yourself. To support this view many will quote the divine commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
If there is a legitimate place for self-love, how far should that go? I am looking for a biblical answer to that question.
In 1 Corinthians 13:5 we read: Love “seeketh not her own.” (KJV). This is my second post to deal with this part of verse 5.
Let’s have a look at the following verse: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27/KJV).
If loving oneself – represented with the words ‘as thyself’- is part of the commandment, there are three strands: Love God, love your neighbour and love yourself. Doing God’s will would require us to love these three parties.
We are to love ourselves only to the extent as permits us to love our neighbours too. Neither ought a Christian love himself so much that he would be unable to love God.
We all have needs, concerns and interests. Yet in pursuing these we still ought to respect legitimate rights of others.
In Romans 13:10 we read: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (KJV). In verse 9 Paul has been listing commandments such as not to commit adultery, not to kill, not to steal, not to bear false witness and not to covet.
Jesus has said the following: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:13/KJV).
Here too we find reference to loving ourselves and loving our neighbours. Quite naturally we know how we would like others to treat us. These standards are to guide us in our behaviour towards others.
Abraham Maslow, a psychologist has listed human needs. Man has physiological needs such as air, rest and food. Then man also has a need for safety. Beyond that man longs to be loved by others and needs a sense of belonging. Finally man has esteem needs and self-actualisation needs.
These are needs all men have in common. However, quite possibly somebody who suffers from severe lack of food will not even think of self-actualisation needs.
Once we know what we ourselves would need we can tell how we would like to be treated by others. This leads us to a new understanding of how Jesus would want us to deal with others.