Mark 12:29-31 is a passage most of you know by heart. When Jesus was asked which commandment was the most important, these verses give His answer. “The most important one,” Jesus said, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

This issue of OUTLOOK focuses on building peace with our world community, so I want to spotlight the second law of which Christ spoke.

At our farewell gathering from a church I pastored near Kansas City almost 30 years ago, a church member gave me a book with short sayings and caricatures illustrating them. The member told me to look at a certain page in the book because it conveyed the message the member wanted to send to me.

I was curious about the message, so the first thing I did when I got home was open the book to the specified page. The caricature was of a man sitting on a bench with his head in his hands and it said, “Be gentle on yourself.” I appreciated greatly the gift and the sentiment. Obviously, the member wanted me not to be too hard on myself and to be thankful in season and out.

Christ’s model for how to treat ourselves and others

Do any of you have a tendency to be hard on yourselves? Perhaps you, too, need to learn self-compassion.

I think it is important to understand how we can love ourselves because according to Christ, that is to be the model for how we treat our neighbors. This is an awkward topic, because we all tend to want to stay away from people who are “in love with themselves.” However, there is a distinct difference between being in love with yourself and being kind, gentle and loving to yourself.

This is by no means a complete list, but here are a few ways we can—and should—love ourselves:

  • Bask in the knowledge we are sons and daughters of God
  • Know that when we confess our sins God forgives us
  • Forgive ourselves
  • Believe God has a plan for our lives no matter what the world throws our way
  • Take care of our physical self, using the eight natural laws of health
  • Spend time in God’s creation
  • Take time to cultivate a walk with God through prayer, Bible study and worship
  • Serve others

In turn, if we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, this gives us a short-list of ways we can do that.

  • See all people as sons and daughters of God
  • Introduce them to our loving, forgiving God
  • Assure them God is in charge and has a plan for their lives
  • Help them to be gentle and forgiving of themselves no matter their journey
  • Encourage and teach them the eight natural laws of health
  • Inspire them to embrace their Creator and spend time in His creation
  • Invite and mentor them to cultivate their walk with God through prayer, Bible study and worship
  • Encourage them to love their neighbors as themselves and serve them

If we do these things, I believe we will be well on our way to building peace with our world community.