Considering Our Spiritual Selves First
Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord with all Your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12: 29-31
Outside of considering our devotion and obedience to God first and foremost, Christ clearly has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. Of course, there is a clear implication from the command – we must be concerned with loving who we are before God to be able to fulfill the command to love others as we should. It is not wrong and even mandatory that we consider our spiritual selves before we concern ourselves with our relationship with others in our life.
However, we cannot trust ourselves too much because God’s grace and understanding are often lacking in us. When we are called by God’s own word to “trust in the Lord with all our heart, and do not rely on our own understanding,” it is a call to accept our inability to guide our lives without spiritual guidance from God. For this very reason, God seeks to speak to our hearts because within each of us is but only a small amount of light, which is easily missed out of our negligence. As a result, without God’s divine inspiration, we are unaware of our own spiritual blindness. Our desperate state is evident when we do wrong by excusing ourselves for the wrong. We often confuse strong emotions for zeal, leading us to reprove small things in others to divert our attention from the greater concerns in ourselves. We are quick to respond and evaluate our suffering without even a thought about how others are suffering because of our selfish actions, words, and attitudes. Those who sincerely and truthfully consider their own actions will find little reason to judge others severely.
Christians should place spiritual progress before all other concerns, and diligently pay attention to their own selves. However, we will never be truly devout within ourselves unless we turn our spiritual eyes back onto ourselves rather than upon others. If we keep our focus upon God and ourselves, we will be less distracted by whatever surrounds us – less distracted by the evaluations and opinions of others.
We should consider where we pay the most attention when we are not focused upon ourselves. Can we possibly be focused on ourselves when we turn our concerns to everywhere else but upon ourselves? If we desire genuine, lasting peace of mind and true unity of purpose that comes from God, then we must increasingly put all other concerns behind us and look only to ourselves. Spiritual progress can only be accomplished when we free ourselves of all temporal concerns, which set ourselves back by focusing upon them and not spiritual concerns. Our primary concern must first be upon God himself or that which is from God. A soul that loves God will set aside as worthy anything that is inferior to God. God alone is everlasting and of infinite greatness, filling all of creation with solace for the soul and true joy in the heart of all who seek him.
When our hearts and our souls are focused upon pleasing God, we will understand that by loving him and obeying him, we will learn the joy of being in love with ourselves, which leads us to love others in the same manner that God loves us. Therefore, is it right for us to consider first our spiritual selves before concerning ourselves with the needs of others? Yes. God clearly says we cannot offer the right concern and care for others unless we can do likewise for ourselves, and God reveals that correct concern and care to us as we learn to love Him as he loves us.
My daily prayer: Lord God, my Creator and Author of love, faith and all hope in this world and beyond, I humbly seek to walk closer and closer to you each day so that I may learn how to love you as I should, which in turn will help me to understand how to love and understand myself. I realize that when I try to love others around me before loving and accepting myself as you have done, my life will be at risk of loving wrongly and ignoring my own well-being. It is too easy to fall into the trap of loving as the world desires us to love and not as you desire us to love, and how you demonstrate that love to us. Father God, I surrender my life to you and pray that I will devote more of my time and effort to understanding your love for me, so that I can apply that same love to my own life first. Then and only then will I be able to genuinely and rightly be concerned and care for others with the love that is eternal and not temporal in origin. And Father, may I exhibit and encourage that understanding to my family each day. Amen.
For additional reading: Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 141:4; Matthew 7:5; 16:26; 1 Corinthians 4:3; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 3:13; Ecclesiastes 1:14