Addicted to Me
Matthew 22:39 You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I have some problems with Jesus’ second greatest command. First, I do not love anyone as much as me. Even those I love the most in this world probably do not equal my love for self. I would die for my wife or children but when it comes to daily, routine conflict, I am always more interested in my point of view than theirs. I can say that I love them as myself, but my bias towards my own preference betrays that I still have a me problem. If love is putting the beloved’s interests above all, then I love myself more than anyone. We almost all do this.
My second problem with Jesus’ command is that not all neighbors are easy to love. I may not love my family perfectly, but it is easy to feel love for them. There are people out there however, whom Jesus commands that I love, that I can barely stand. What am I to do with the person who is just plain obnoxious and unpleasant? Surely Jesus did not mean that I must love those I do not even like?
Both problems have a common root: Me. I am the reason it is difficult to love as Jesus commanded. It is my interest in me and my own preferences that keeps me from loving others as myself. I am a me addict. As long as I am hooked on me, I will never love God and neighbor as commanded.
Just as following the first commandment means denying self and loving God above all, loving others as myself involves the same two steps. I must demote self and lift others up. If I try to love without getting out of myself, I will never get over the me problem. I will never be able to love enough to overcome my self-interest. If I want to love as Jesus commanded, I need to get out of myself. I cannot pursue me above all and expect to truly love others.
The only solution is to recover from my addiction to me. How do I do this though? It is my nature to put my own interests above all. It is the way I was made. This is the very definition of my flesh nature, to want what I want.
This, in essence, is our primary life problem. It is the principal defect that keeps us from the faith and love that God intended. It is the root defect of all the destruction we cause ourselves. Our selfishness is that which keeps us from being who God meant us to be.
It is not a problem that we resolve once-for-all. It is something we will struggle with until we are freed from this flesh at death. It is however, something that we can do better at. Daily, we can choose to deny self, follow God, and love others.
In every decision, I can learn to ask if I am following me or following God. It is not easy, but recovery from addiction never is. It is what God commands me to do though. If I am to love God above all and love others as myself, I need to daily work at my addiction to me.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful or interesting, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.