Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway originally asked the four-word question in a ballad of the early ‘70s. Years later, other artists such as the Black Eyed Peas followed suit and asked the same question. And now, so do I.
Where is the love?A few thoughts may come to mind regarding the concept of love, by way of the love of God toward us, our love for God, or our love for others. All of these are valid thoughts, yet I’m steering the question in a different direction.
Where is the love — the love you have for yourself? Yes, I am asking you and I am asking you to ask yourself —How do you love yourself? When do you love yourself? And ultimately, do you love yourself?
As I considered the biblical reference of this question, I was familiar with scriptures in Matthew, Mark and Luke that remind us to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. To my surprise, I found a total of eight scriptures (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19 and 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8 — the italicized texts were “newer” to me). As such, we can’t say we haven’t been told to love ourselves. We have been, from the Old to the New Testament. The question at hand — are we truly heeding these words? If the answer is no, then we are lacking in the instruction of truly loving our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbor efficiently, if we are not first loving ourselves efficiently.
This method of love reminds me of the instructions given to airplane passengers before the plane rises to the friendly skies. The flight attendants tell us that if the cabin loses pressure, we are to give ourselves oxygen first, then help those around us.I’ll be transparent with you and confess that I used to say to myself that I’d help others first. After all, it had been by method of operation for years. Oh, what peace (love and oxygen) I would often forfeit, continuously putting others before me!
Thank God for deliverance! Thank God for the realization that I must love myself first. You must love yourself first. We must love ourselves first — not second or third, but FIRST! If we choose otherwise, the love others receive from us will be half-hearted, insincere and exhausting. This my friends is not love. It is also not fair to us or those we say we love. How can we improve? Glad you asked.
First, stop looking for others to do for you what you have been instructed to do for yourself. Other than God, no one can employ a greater love to you than you, period. Second start loving yourself now. Before bed this evening, thank God and then thank yourself for being great today. Be gracious with yourself, if you weren’t as great as you desired. In the morning, give God thanks, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how incredible and courageous you are. Love yourself daily with words of affirmation and gratitude. Pat yourself on the back. Take yourself to dinner, the spa, or on vacation. Do what you enjoy. Be who you enjoy. As you lavish yourself with love, not only will you be better able to love others, others will be better able to love you.
Where is the love? It’s within every fiber of your being. Embrace it. Engage it. Experience it.
Rae Karim is an Indianapolis pastor who serves as chapel director at Christian Theological Seminary. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.