PASSAGE: He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
PASSAGE: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
QUESTION: How are these passages alike, different? Do they say the same thing? And
regarding the Matthew passage: What if a person does not love himself or herself, but is filled with self-loathing? Would the instruction “love your neighbor as yourself” still apply, even if you don’t love yourself very much?
COMMENT: They are indeed saying very much the same thing, from two slightly different perspectives. Matthew seems to describe a three-step process: You love God, then (by implication) love yourself, then love your neighbor “as yourself.” But this creates some challenges. If we are to love God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind, then what is left for ourselves and our neighbor? If we love ourselves and our neighbor, doesn’t that mean our love for God is less than total?
The answer is suggested in the great statement from the Gospel of John. God is not a being to whom we address an energy of love. God IS the energy of love. We, our neighbors and God are not separate entities; they are one and the same. If we simply focus on that energy of love, and let it flow through us unconditionally, we will be expressing that love in all things. And in that flow of divine energy lies our entire purpose as spiritual beings in human form. If it seems blocked in any specific way—if, as you suggest, we are feeling unloving about ourselves—then we can allow love to flow in other ways and directions—toward God, toward others—in complete confidence that our negative energies will be dissolved in its divine power.