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Loving your neighbour as yourself

sundayword:BY PROSPER TINGINI

Many times we have read from the scriptures of the need to love your neighbour as yourself. This is a commandment given to mankind by the Lord our God, the Almighty Father. At Mount Sinai, and through Moses, He instructed humanity: (Leviticus 19:18) “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord.” In Leviticus 19:34, He proceeded to reiterate on the same topic: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Jesus Christ, the Son, adopted this commandment and taught us that it was the most important of all, second only to the love we should show to God the Father.

In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus was asked by the scribes: “Which commandment is the first of all?” and he answered: “The first is, hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And he proceeded to say, “The second is this, ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’.”

Herein lies the problem about this law in its interpretation. A lot of emphasis is being placed upon loving your neighbour and leaving “yourself” out of the equation. Almost everything we are taught is just focusing on the loving of your neighbour. There is total neglect on the love of oneself. If we should study the commandment in detail it should be very clear. The first thing to do is to be in a state of loving yourself first before you can extend your love to others. Loving yourself first is the prerequisite to the commandment. If you fail to love who you are as God’s creation, how then can you genuinely love others? Wouldn’t this state of affairs attract in you some elements of jealousy, hatred, disclaim etc. towards others if you are not happy with yourself?

We have many examples of people who are not happy about themselves. Some people wish they were of a lighter or darker skin. Others hate their curly hair or hair colour. Many spend large amounts of money changing their facial appearance, which is artificial. Some wish they were of the opposite sex, or taller or shorter. Many of us wish we were different from who we are in many other ways. The poor wish they were born rich. The rich are not satisfied with everything they have. People often complain of what they don’t have, or wish they were created differently. Often, there is absence of the total love for oneself.

We are all created in God’s image. Each of us is an intended specimen of the Creator. Every human has a distinct purpose. God wanted it that way, no wonder each human has their own distinct fingerprints. If you are not satisfied with who God created you to be, then you do not love yourself. In simple terms, you are in rebellion with both God the Creator and with yourself. If you do not approve of who you are, then how can you love yourself? Each of us wears a God-given crown which is different from the other person, hence should be happy and hold on to our own crowns. We are all destined to be who God created us to be and we should be thankful of who we are in whatever role God meant us to be. We can’t all be kings and queens and that’s how things should be. Such is the structure of life on planet earth. It is God’s format. Each of us fits into that format perfectly.

We should be taught to approve of ourselves first and foremost. We should learn to be at peace with ourselves, then and only then can we be at peace with and learn to love those around us, our neighbours. If we love who we are, it would be much easier to love our neighbours. After achieving a state of loving oneself, you should then deal with the next person around you, to share the love for one another, as a next step. The next question to ask is: Who then is my neighbour?

Jesus Christ answered the question well. He used the parable of the Good Samaritan to explain what it is to be a good neighbour in the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:30-35). Anyone who meets the needs of another person is a neighbour to that person. Extend a helping hand to the person next to you before seeking to extend it to those afar. If you don’t assist or see eye-to-eye with your own father, mother, brother, sister, etc, then you are in breach of the foundations of good neighbourliness. It should start with you; approve yourself, then your next of kin, and then spread the love outwards to whoever you encounter needing any care. Embrace them all.

You can’t love and call your “ministry prophet” a “father” when you never visit or call your own biological father or mother wherever they are. You don’t send money or groceries to your real father or mother, yet you shower your “prophet” with gifts and pay the tithe without fail! You don’t at all assist your brother or sister in their times of need yet you never fail to give to the “prophet”, church or ministry? What a disgrace! You are not living under the spirit of love and good neighbourliness. If you ignore those around you and neglect to love them all in richness or in poverty, then you are a lost sheep.

In Matthew 5:23-26, Jesus expanded the law and instructed us thus: “So, if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come back and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison, truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.”

What it means is that if you don’t make peace with yourself, with your father, mother, brother, sister, neighbours and adversaries, then you will be condemned to a life of eternal hell.

l Prosper Tingini is the Scribe of God Missionary Assembly. Contact 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com

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