The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
I’ve been struck by these passages the past few months. The challenge here is daunting and difficult. First, (or rather secondly) we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sweet, so what does good love look like? Well, the second passage seems to say the greatest love comes from the sacrifice of my life for the sake of friends. What I’m picking up here is that we should aim for our neighbors to be our friends and then place their hopes and desires above our own or rather will the good for them over my own good.
This love is based in and upon how much I love myself. I should love myself because I am myself. If I don’t pursue good things for me then me will soon no longer exist and I couldn’t love anyone. So, I must love myself and the more I know who I am, who this self is, the more capacity I have to love my self and others because the more we know about something the more we can love it. Therefore, when we are confronted with the decision to will the good for our friend/neighbor or will the good for ourselves, we begin to discover who we are because we have recognize our self and choose to submit that self to our neighbor. So, it is through community (neighbors and friends) and our submission (laying down of our life) that we can truly find our selves.
In times of identity crisis we have the option to pull away or run to community. By pulling away I think we often become entrenched in our selves and lose sight of who we are. But, if we choose community we find that identity tuck away somewhere inside us. In a non-apparent way all to common in Christian teaching, we find that we can focus and love on others to truly focus and love upon ourselves.
A quick note about solitude. An important part of this process of loving our neighbors and discovering our selves comes through solitude. This a time of reflection where we can see the choices we made and learn about our selves so that when we return to community we can continue to pursue the good for our neighbors. So, in a certain sense solitude is where self discovery happens but only through our actions of love in community can we have something good to reflect upon.