Summary: Before you can love your neighbor as yourself, you must first love yourself.
The Greatest Commandment Series David Owens
Sermon #3: “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” (Pt. 1) 10/5/03
Text: Mark 12:28-34
A. I want to begin this morning with the words to a song that was a big hit for Whitney Houston around ten years ago.
“I believe the children are our are future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.
Everybody searching for a hero. People need someone to look up to.
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs. A lonely place to be. So I learned to depend on me.
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows.
If I fail, if I succeed, At least I live as I believe.
No matter what they take from me. They can’t take away my dignity.
Because the greatest love of all. Is happening to me.
I found the greatest love of all, Inside of me.
The greatest love of all, Is easy to achieve.
Learning to love yourself, It is the greatest love of all.”
1. I think we would all agree with some of the things in this song – children are our future. They must be taught well. They need someone to look up to.
2. But there are also some things we would disagree with strongly –
a. First of all, there is an absence of God. The message is very humanistic.
b. Second, the greatest love of all is not self-love.
B. Nevertheless, the reason I wanted to begin with this song is because I want to understand that self-love is important and necessary.
1. I know that statement probably surprises you.
2. We probably have never heard a sermon on the forgotten commandment: “LOVE YOURSELF!”, but that is what I want to speak with you about today.
C. This is our third week working with these texts on the greatest commandment.
1. We have noted that many were trying to trap Jesus by their questions, but such was not the case with the question from the Scribe. He really wanted to know what the greatest commandment was.
2. The Jewish scholars had cataloged over 600 specific commandments in the Law, and this sincere Scribed wanted to know which was the greatest. The most important one.
3. Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than these.”
4. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it like this, “ ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ ”
D. So, Jesus is telling us to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
1. By the very way in which he shapes these concepts of love, Jesus makes it very clear that loving ourselves is the foundation upon which all these other presumably higher loves are built.
2. In other words, those who loves themselves are those who are most able to love others and love God.
3. And those who loathe themselves are most likely to hurt others and despise God.
E. Studies of criminal behavior usually arrive at the same conclusions.
1. What kind of people become criminals of the worst kind – violent, murderers and rapists?
2. They are almost without exception people who have been treated so badly by life that at some deep level they have learned they are not worthy of love.
a. They may have been abused, been victims of racism, or raised in grinding poverty.
b. They may have been abandoned by family and left without anything or anyone.
3. And so, despising themselves at some profound level of the soul, they lash out in hatred – they kill, they abuse, and they destroy.
4. This pattern is most plain to see at the extreme boundaries of pathology and criminality, but to some degree can be seen in every community.
5. All of us have probably experienced the fact that the people who live life with a hostile and mean spirit are those who, for whatever reason, have a poor self-image and have little love for themselves.
6. And on the opposite extreme, all of us have seen that the people who are most capable of genuinely loving people are those who know themselves to be loved and see themselves as love-able.
7. I just do not think that we can genuinely love God or love others, without genuinely loving ourselves.