His Pursuit of You Begins with Love

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And 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 great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40

These are the words of Jesus as told by the Gospel of Matthew. Every part of the Bible is important, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t pay just a little bit more attention when any of the Gospels mention Jesus speaking. If Jesus is God in the flesh, that means his words are pretty important. More so, if all our lives are supposed to be in apprenticeship under Jesus, it is so important that we pay close attention to the accounts of Jesus. He is the one we are meant to model after all.

Hearing these verses as a 19 year old girl, trying to come to terms with Jesus’ love was mind altering. I knew God loved me, and hear me say, I was pretty sure I loved Jesus with everything I had in me at that point. That second part, when it talked about loving your neighbor as yourself just cracked something in my heart. I knew I could love the person beside me, I always knew the people around me were worthy of being shown Christ’s love. I was absolutely convinced of that fact. The implicit command of loving yourself now? I never heard of that. My greatest struggle that year would be learning that I was worthy of the love that I gave others, and more so, I could not properly love the people around me until I learned to love myself.

My second year being a part of Wesley, they did a series entitled “The Greatest of These.” The last message was about loving yourself. Clay Kirkland, a former director, gave an illustration that revolutionized the way I engaged in self-talk. His illustration centered around the premise that if we were to write down everything that we were comfortable saying to ourselves and someone else said those things to someone we care about, we would be up in arms, trying to protect them. However, when it came to us saying those same things to ourselves, we were completely okay with that type of negative self-talk.

We are unable to love the people around us fully until we love ourselves. It will constantly feel like you are giving more than what has been given to you and it will lead to burn out so quickly. God is madly in love with each one of us. Relationship with each of us has always been the prize for God. He could build his kingdom in a second, he does not need us to build his kingdom. He cares infinitely more about you than what you can do for His kingdom. His pursuit of you begins with love. The only way we will understand what self-love looks like is when we engage with the Father and see the love he has graciously given to us.

Self-love is not selfish, but it can feel selfish when you begin the process. Loving yourself well is actually the only way you can begin to love the people around you with the love of Christ. Christ knew his limits, he balanced intimacy with the Father and loving others. So often in the Gospels, we see that Jesus went away to be with the Father. This pattern did not mean that Jesus loved the disciples less but that actually that he knew the only way he could continue to love them was if he was filled up by the Father. In a world that has the wrong view of selflessness, self-love can become a pretty twisted view. Self-love is rooted in true humility. We do not think less of ourselves, we think of ourselves less.

I say all of this, knowing that I still have a ways to go when it comes to loving every part of myself. There are key experiences I have had with God over the past 4 months that have absolutely convinced me that even when I believe I am unlovable, God will never forsake the ones he has chosen. I am enough, because God says so. As I have come to understand mercy and grace more, I realized that I am completely unworthy of the love God graciously pours out, but Jesus came to bridge the gap I never could. At the foundation of who we are as Christians, we understand that we love because Jesus first loved us.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

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