Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loving your neigbor as yourself

From John Piper Love your Neighbor as yourself: Part 2: speaking about loving your neighbor as yourself, preaching on matthews account of Jesus answer to the scribe who asks him "what is the greatest commandment". 
He commands, "As you love yourself, so love your neighbor." Which means: As you long for food when you are hungry, so long to feed your neighbor when he is hungry. As you long for nice clothes for yourself, so long for nice clothes for your neighbor. As you work for a comfortable place to live, so desire a comfortable place to live for your neighbor. As you seek to be safe and secure from calamity and violence, so seek comfort and security for your neighbor. As you seek friends for yourself, so be a friend to your neighbor. As you want your life to count and be significant, so desire that same significance for your neighbor. As you work to make good grades yourself, so work to help your neighbor make good grades. As you like to be welcomed into strange company, so welcome your neighbor into strange company. As you would that men would do to you, do so to them.

In other words make your self-seekingthe measure of your self-giving. When Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," the word "as" is very radical: "Love your neighborasyourself." That's a BIG word: "As!" It means: If you are energeticin pursing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you arecreative in pursuing your own happiness, be creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you arepersevering in pursuing your own happiness, be persevering in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. In other words, Jesus is not just saying: seek for your neighbor the same thingsyou seek for yourself, but also seek them in the same way—the same zeal and energy and creativity and perseverance. The same life and death commitment when you are in danger. Make your own self-seeking the measure of your self-giving. Measure your pursuit of the happiness of others, and what it should be, by the pursuit of your own. How do you pursue your own well-being? Pursue your neighbor's well-being that way too.
Now this is very threatening and almost overwhelming. Because we feel immediately that if we take Jesus seriously, we will not just have to love others "as we love ourselves," but we will have to love them "instead of loving ourselves." That's what it seems like. We fear that if we follow Jesus in this, and really devote ourselves to pursuing the happiness of others, then our own desire for happiness will always be preempted. The neighbor's claim on my time and energy and creativity will always take priority. So the command to love my neighbor as I love myself really feels like a threat to my own self-love. How is this even possible? If there is born in us a natural desire for our own happiness, and if this is not in itself evil, but good, how can we give it up and begin only to seek the happiness of others at the expense of our own?
"Love God with all your heart" means: Find in God a satisfaction so profound that it fills up all your heart. "Love God with all your soul" means: Find in God a meaning so rich and so deep that it fills up all the aching corners of your soul. "Love God with all your mind" means: Find in God the riches of knowledge and insight and wisdom that guide and satisfy all that the human mind was meant to be.
In other words take all your self-love—all your longing for joy and hope and love and security and fulfillment and significance—take all that, and focus it on God, until he satisfies your heart and soul and mind. What you will find is that this is not a canceling out of self-love. This is a fulfillment and transformation of self-love. Self-love is the desire for life and satisfaction rather than frustration and death. God says, Come to me, and I will give you fullness of joy. I will satisfy your heart and soul and mind with my glory. This is the first and great commandment.
And with that great discovery—that God is the never-ending fountain of our joy—the way we love others is forever changed. Now when Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," we don't respond by saying, "Oh, this is threatening. This means my love for myself is made impossible by all the claims of my neighbor. I could never do this." Instead we say, "Oh, yes, I love myself. I have longings for joy and satisfaction and fulfillment and significance and security. But God has called me—indeed he has commanded me—to come to him first for all these things. He commands that my love for him be the form of my love for me. That all my longings for me I find in him. That is what my self-love is now. It is my love for God. They have become one. My quest for happiness is now nothing other than a quest for God. And he has been found in Jesus Christ."
So what, then, is Jesus commanding in the second commandment—that we love our neighbor as ourselves? He is commanding that our self- love, which has now discovered its fulfillment in God-love, be the measure and the content of our neighbor-love. Or, to put it another way, he is commanding that our inborn self-seeking, which has now been transposed into God-seeking, overflow and extend itself to our neighbor.

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