Jesus gives us the greatest commandment, to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We’ve all heard this command, but we tend to resist the basis for loving our neighbors — loving ourselves. The “small story” we often live in focuses on what we’ve done, what was done to us, and what we dislike about ourselves. The Big Story is the eternal perspective. It includes not only us, but what God has done, is doing, and will do through us. In Christ, we are to see our story as part of the Big Story. With God’s help we can embrace this process to overcome the evil within.
This week’s message was entitled, “Loving the Enemy Within.” Greg began with a quick review principles established previously on loving our enemies. Do not repay evil with evil (Rom. 12:17), Do not resist an evildoer (Matt. 5:39, 44), put away all bitterness, anger, malice, slander… (Eph. 4:29-31). Then we turned to Matt. 22:36-40 where Jesus gives us the greatest commandment, to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We’ve all heard this command, but we tend to resist the basis for loving our neighbors—loving ourselves. All three directions of this command (God, neighbor, self) are interrelated. We cannot do one of them without doing the other two. If we fail to do one, the other two also suffer. This message focused on ways we fail to love ourselves. Greg used the metaphor of being pushed and our desire to push back to discuss these:
1. We don’t forgive ourselves for past mistakes. The past pushes on us and we want to push it back.
2. We fail to work through suffering we have endured and our memories haunt us. Again, the past pushes on us and we want to push it back.
3. We despise parts of our own bodies because we know it doesn’t fit what the world tells us is “beautiful.” The world pushes this standard on us and we try to push back. We think, “if only…” then I would be acceptable, beautiful, loved, etc.
4. We despise parts of our character as Paul illustrates in Romans 7:15. This can result in shame, judgment, staying out of ministry, etc.
Our “pushing back” in response to these issues can manifest in many ways, including animosity, anger, depression, inappropriate behavior, lack of confidence, sadness, etc. But how do we love ourselves without condoning those things that truly need to be transformed in our lives? If pushing back doesn’t work any better with ourselves than it does with others, what then can we do? How do we turn our desire to push into an embrace of who we are? It can be answered in the same way as we responded to how we love our neighbors even when we don’t condone certain aspects of their lives. Zoom out. Live in the Big Story.
The “small story” we often live in focuses on what we did, what was done to us, what we like/dislike what is good or bad about ourselves. The Big Story is the eternal perspective. It includes not only you, but what God has done, is doing, and will do through you. Weaving the good and the bad, the likes and the dislikes, into an eternal masterpiece. Paul talks about the big story in Rom. 8:28. God works with whatever the circumstances are to bring good out of the situation. No matter what it is, however bad or painful, God is weaving it into the Big Story of God’s redemption of the world! Whatever pains you, it is not the last word! God always gets the last word. God will bring good out it. When we live in THAT story, it changes our focus. We can breathe again. God has ensured that all will not be lost. We will be transformed and reflect the beauty of our Creator. Recall Greg’s analogy with the Mona Lisa. When you focus in on one tiny portion, the perspective is all wrong. But when you pull back and see the whole picture, you recognize the handiwork of a master!
In Christ, we are now to see our story as part o the Big Story. We can embrace the process that God has us in to overcome evil in us with God. No need to judge ourselves or our circumstances, but rather we can recognize what God is doing and cooperate with that. We are to love ourselves so that we can enter into loving God and our neighbor fully. This means we will forgive ourselves, forgive others who have hurt us, accept our bodies, and have hope with present struggles because we know that God is at work in us!
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