“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.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Based on these words of Jesus, we find that there are three “realms,” if you will, of love. First is the realm of loving God, second the realm of loving ourselves and third, the realm of loving others.
As believers, it might surprise us to see that Jesus tells us to love ourselves before He tells us to love others. Isn’t this selfish and self-centered? No. In His infinite wisdom, He knows that in order to truly love others we must first be able to truly love ourselves. This kind of love is not self-love born of pride, but love born out of a revelation of the knowledge of God’s heart for us.
Unfortunately, the problem in relationships most often springs from this first realm; we are not able to receive God’s heart for us because we do not really know or trust Him. We walk around bearing the marks of the wounds we have received in life. These wounds prevent us from receiving God’s love because they lie to us about who God is; they lie to us about who we are. They hold us as prisoners who cannot know love in any realm until we are set free.
Am I able to receive God’s love or are there things in my heart that put up a wall preventing me from believing that He loves me? If I am unable to freely receive from Him, I cannot love Him and I cannot love myself. Therefore, I am unable to love others.
When Jesus speaks of “loving your neighbor” I think of my closest “neighbor” – my husband. To truly love him, I must first be able to receive God’s love. As I encounter Him at deeper heart levels, I am enabled to love God whole-heartedly in return. Secondly, through the revelation of God’s love for me I am able to love myself. Thirdly, as I love myself I can truly love my husband. How we love our spouse is rooted in how we love ourselves.