Love your neighbor as yourself, has been one of those major stumbling blocks in my life. I knew what the commandment demanded from me, but I was utterly helpless in fulfilling it. One day I saw that it said that I couldn’t love my neighbor more than I could love myself. A life in condemnation and failure isn’t of much help if you are to love yourself. This whole scheme seemed more like an endless loop of misery than something that was possible to attain. I guess this was how the Israelites felt when they wandered in circles in the wilderness.
Love your neighbor as yourself is in fact a double commandment where love your neighbor hinges on love yourself. Self love and self acceptance is a prerequisite for the other. If we view this commandment from an outer perspective it soon becomes a burden to big for us to carry on our shoulders. The secret of fulfilling of Jesus’ seemingly impossible demand is found on a completely different level.
We read that Jesus was perfected through what He suffered. The ultimate goal of everything God does is to make sure that Christ is formed in us, so that we can be transformed to His image. This implies a process where we ultimately come to the end of ourselves and appreciate our nothingness, where we as Jesus say that we can do nothing of ourselves. We kick out, or more precisely; in a joint operation with the Spirit we kick out, any residues of self-reliance and any desires to make things happen of our own accord. We arrive at the spot where we become still and acknowledge that God is God. That illusion of independent self is once and for all shattered.
Abraham was also perfected through what he suffered. Of old age, when his loins were empty, when he had encountered his own nothingness God could plant the seed in Sara which brought forth Isaac, who was a fruit of the Spirit with eternal repercussions. From his line Jesus was born. However, the seed could not be planted before Abraham’s nothingness was amalgamated with faith. Through what he suffered Abraham was empowered to see beyond himself and see God only, as the one who would and could accomplish His will in and through Abraham.
When Abraham initially saw his nothingness and coupled it with what God had promised him he bordered on the verge of bitterness and cynicism. God, however, continued to remind Abraham about His promise and thus slowly but surely fuelled Abraham’s faith until Abraham recognized that in his nothingness was the seed to supernatural greatness in God. In his nothingness he found his true life, the abundant life of faith.
We all receive the same invitation as Abraham, to leave everything behind and find a place where we can set up our tent and be met by our God who through our nothingness can conceive the boy, that is, the righteous deeds that are everlasting in their effect. Like Abraham we are not guaranteed in our lifetime to see the multitude of seeds from the one seed.
As Lot we all ran when it began to rain sulfur and fire upon us. From the horizon we could behold the smoking ruins of our self righteous works or attempts thereof. Free from any obligations to perform, reliant on God only we have discovered our nothingness. In this nothingness we are wholly His responsibility and we say as Jesus: I only do what I see my Father is doing. We even say as Paul: By His grace I am what I am. The nothingness is our freedom. No need to pretend anymore. When it now dawns upon me that I am accepted and loved by God as His unique creation I can love myself without reservation and from the new heart flows love to my neighbor in the manner God see most fit for my neighbor’s eternal destiny.