“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The Golden Rule. It’s one of the greatest commandments upon which all of the Law and Prophets hang. So we conclude that in order to love and be loved by God, we have to love our neighbor. And just that easily, the freedom to love and be loved becomes a new Law by which we try to earn God’s favor.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
But when love is a duty and not a gift, it is not true love.
We are only acting out love through our shadow self in an effort to appease God and receive his blessing on our true self, which is hidden away in fear. We know we are acting out of our false self when our “love for others” has left us over extended, stressed out, anxious, and exhausted.
We hide our true self and love out of our false self because we are afraid of failure, rejection, and being revealed as an imposter. We long for the Father’s love to validate our true self, not trusting that we already have his love. We are already validated before the Father, and we only have to look to Christ to see that love in the flesh.
But when we love our neighbor from our shadow self, we are also loving God from our shadow self.
“The true measure of your character is what you do when nobody’s watching.” (Charles Colton)
True love is honest, acts with integrity and consistency, and gives more than it takes. But, if I cannot love myself whom I am, then how can I expect to love the other? And if I cannot love the other whom I have seen, how can I love God whom I have not seen?
True love born out of true character is just as real and consistent and honest when I am alone as when I am with others.
True love is just as true towards myself as it is towards God.
How do we break free from this cycle? How do we love our neighbor from our true self? We must rest in the love of the Father that is already poured out on us. How do we do that? We treat ourselves the way we treat others. We love ourselves, confident that we are loved by the Father first, and therefore worthy of our own love. We treat ourselves with patience and grace and gentleness. We keep promises to ourselves. We take care of ourselves.
We treat ourselves as though we were precious in the Father’s eyes and worthy of care.
In this way we develop a character of love, not just a discipline of love-like behavior. We learn to love our true self. From this place of confident rest in the Father’s love, lived out by a character of love that starts with ourself, we dare to be vulnerable enough to love our neighbor from our true self. When we love our neighbor from our true self, then we love the Father from our true self. No longer a transactional love, it is selfless and fearless.