Posted by Dean Paulson

It is interesting to watch a progression in Jesus teaching about loving one another and unity.

In Matthew 22:37-40, the great commandment, he tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.  And then the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, the issue is not that we have low self-esteem.  Jesus is not saying  you have to love yourself first and then love others after you have learned to love yourself.  No, he knows that our issue is that we are self-absorbed.  Even those who seem to struggle with issues of self- esteem, really are focused on themselves.  Our nature is to love ourselves more than we love God and certainly more than we love others.  Jesus presumes that we love ourselves because that is our nature. He wants us to love others as much as we love ourselves.

However, in John 13:34 he ups the ante a bit.  He says a “new command I give you.  Love one another as I have loved you.” NIV.  Now that is a different deal isn’t it.  Loving like Jesus did.  Sacrificially, willing to lay down your life for another, being patient, kind, not self-seeking,  and not keeping records of wrongs.  These are just a few of the ways Jesus loves. 

That kind of love, the way the Father, Son, and Spirit love each other and how they love us, leads to John 17. John 17 shows us the importance of unity among believers.  Loving one another like Christ loves, leads to a unity that causes the world to know that we are disciples of Jesus. Unity does not mean that there is never any tension or confrontation.  It simply means even in those situations we confront one another in love.

John Piper is his sermon Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit, ( preached May 27, 1984 said; 

“The second stage of love results from the first. It is called patience or long-suffering. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience.” Lowliness is the prerequisite of patience. Haughty people are not patient. The more highly you think of yourself the more quickly you will think you should be served. “Who do they think they are to keep me waiting like this!” But if you have a disposition of lowliness, it won’t feel so inappropriate when you are not treated like a dignitary and when the fruits of your labors are slow in coming. If you have seen the majesty of God’s holiness, you know your own minuteness and sinfulness, and you don’t presume to deserve special treatment. And if you have seen the magnificence of God’s grace, you know he will give you the strength to wait and will turn all your delays into strategic maneuvers of victory.”

The issue is not that we need to love ourselves more.  We love ourselves plenty. One of the great enemies of unity is loving ourselves so much that all that matters is how we see things or feel about things.  When that happens the Spirit of Christ cannot work through us to love others as Jesus loves.