Before you or I can love someone in giving our opinions to him or her, we must know what the Bible means by the commandment: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. This love for the neighbor flows, of course, from our love for God which love for God has, of course, as its spring, its source, the love of God for us. The writer graciously assumes that God’s love is already coursing through you. May our attention, while now focused on love for the neighbor, be also always focused on our reason for doing this, that is, on our love for God in the first place.
The neighbor, anyone whom God puts on our pathway, we must love as ourselves. This love of self with the purpose in mind also of loving others as we love God requires that we first know this: who we are.
This knowledge of self in some areas of our evaluation is certain knowledge or conviction. But as we look at ourselves closely, we must also see that we do not always have that certain knowledge, but only various opinions about many details of ourselves.
For example, you and I know, because the Bible says so, that we are sinners: we are full of lies and hatred and pride in ourselves. We know for sure also that we are saved only by the grace of God. And we know also that just because our parents tell us that we are covenant children does not mean that we ourselves do not have to repent and believe in order to have fellowship with God.
But, though I know that great and beautiful is my salvation and my God, yet how good a piano player I am is a matter of opinion. And whether Johnny or Sue has the ugliest nose is a matter of opinion. Even of the depth of my sin I am not certain. And of how much worse my particular sin of gluttony is than another man’s sinful addiction to the drug called nicotine, I cannot be sure.
As we begin to see, not only certain knowledge of self is crucial to our love of self, but also our uncertain knowledge, our opinions of ourselves, are involved here. The first basic step to proper self-love, which step we have already taken in this article, is simply this: distinguishing between the two! For, as we will see bye and bye, if we cannot distinguish say, between a sin to be repented of and a personality weakness we have been given to live with, we will have no peace and be frustrated constantly in our vain efforts. And this unrest and frustration in ourselves will cause us not to love but to plague our neighbor even with our opinions of them. So please: let us begin to know ourselves better. Let us repent of our conceit! But let us be long-suffering and content with our long noses. Let us desire earnestly to be delivered from our sins and not from our brother’s horrible singing voice. Speak out of this knowledge of self, His truth and your opinions, in love. Why? For no less reason than that we may all be perfected and grow as in the body of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:11-17).
Think on these following statements, will you? Which ones are true? Which are opinions? Which are said in love, and which are not? Is it always possible to tell just by one’s words if he is loving or not?
“Repent, you big fat sinner!”
“That John really is a big talker.”
“I can’t stand being around Mike. He always thinks he knows it all.”
“This rain really stinks. It’s ruined our whole vacation.”
“That Sally, she really made my day by her smile!”
“Mitch, let’s go to the cross together, shall we?”
“Praise the Lord, brother!”