Jesus, after having refuted the elite, Jewish aristocracy on their interpretation of the law, found himself face to face with the one of the Scribe whose job was study the law, transcribe the law and interpret the law. The Scribe, having heard the conversation and recognizing that Jesus answered well to them, asked Jesus impudently, “What then is the first commandment of all?”

Jesus response is recorded as: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” –– Mark 12:31

I’ve heard many testimonies to that command. I’ve listened in church services, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals as many argued their self-righteous pat on the back: “You don’t have to love me but I love you and that’s all God requires.”

Let me declare these individuals have not demonstrated the love requirement of the afore-mentioned scripture.

In order to “Love your neighbor as yourself” each person must first love themselves. I have often witnessed this statement used sometimes in a moment to justify heated or angry attempts to stay emotionally in control or lack thereof. I have seen the response spoken through gritted teeth even with a tense look. I have witnessed the response spoken through emotional despair with the individual trying to hold back tears. I recognize individuals with low self-esteem use this statement over and over again with hurtful tones.

I have witnessed mental abusers used this statement to justify their actions. I have witnessed parents saying this to children to justify or deem their actions as right. Need

less to say, I can go on and on with different circumstances where I have heard this. No one can fulfill this commandment unless they love themselves. This commandment is based on your love – your understanding of love upon yourself. Can you forgive yourself for the wrong things of the past? Can you let go off the cruelty that you suffered? Can you move on or continue to build a relationship based on trust, forgiveness, looking beyond the carnal actions of each independent individual who has done you wrong?

Take into account for a moment that our neighbor is not just the person across the street or next door to us; it is also those we meet on the bus, the homeless, those behind prison bars, those from foreign countries, our own countrymen, our classmate. In other words, anyone with whom we come into contact other than our family members is classified as our neighbor.

I have heard the statement nobody can love you like yourself. In this case, Jesus gives you the authority to love yourself just like that but he warns with the same measure you love yourself love one another. From the platform you have place yourself on, reach down and pull your neighbor up with you. The standard you have required to be treated treat your neighbor with the same standard. I declare, “I love me some me.” I know that’s not proper English etiquette but that’s how I feel about it. But above and beyond that, I love my neighbor. Why? There’s an ole school saying that goes, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Believe your paths cross an individual who you will never come in contact with again but for that moment we are to embrace them, whether in silent prayer, a helping hand or just maybe a listening ear. My friends, one never knows the bridge we will need assistance to cross over. Today, you and I might be at the bottom of the bridge but if we hold hands, strategize together both of us will be able to cross the bridge together and then in turn with that knowledge be able to empower others on how to cross the bridge of life.

Learn how to love yourself by treating others the same way you desire to be loved. Plant a seed in your vineyard of love; water it every day. Pull up and out the choking weeds that tries to destroy your plant; remove the rocks and pest that comes to eat at your crop; tenderly garden your vineyard. I promise you, as you carefully nurture your vineyard, your seed will blossom and grow into a beautiful fruit, which will be desired by all.

Forever in Christ Jesus

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