Discovering Sabbath and Learning to Love My Neighbour and Myself

Many Christians, as well as other biblical scholars will be familiar with the passage in Mark 12, wherein Jesus explains to a “teacher of the law” that there are two fundamental commandments. Jesus says:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Today I heard this passage differently.

Growing up, I was taught this verse at quite a young age. For me, I was taught “loving my neighbour” through the lens of the acronym, “J.O.Y” – Jesus, Others, You. I was taught that true joy could be experienced by making others more of a priority than loving myself.

Previously, I understood that I needed to put God first in everything, though admittedly on my own I often fall short at that.

Photo by Sarah Smith

Thankfully, God is patient and provides what I need to obey Him as I learn to draw closer to Him. I also understood that it was important to treat others with dignity and respect, not because of who they are or what they do, but because of whose they are. This meant everyone, from the officer who conducts the ride program – making me late for my plans; to the person moving a little slow for my preferences – as I run errands; to my nephews (and niece on the way) – with whom I am absolutely enraptured; to those who constantly build me up.  Each is an image bearer and of utmost importance to their Creator. Despite their current interaction with me, they matter. I got that too.

Recently I have been working on letting go of some prior traumas which left me with a core belief of “I don’t matter”, through the vehicles of Scripture study and counseling – as well as some great friends – I am learning to root my identity in whose I am and the reality that regardless of what others see, I matter infinitely to the One who created me. This leant itself to my new understanding of these “great commandments”.

If I am to love my neighbour as myself, I must learn to actually love myself. 

I cannot always come last because that isn’t showing true love. It may seem simple and obvious but I have struggled with this concept for a long time. When there’s a never-ending stream of crises, it can be hard to remember the necessity of putting yourself at the top of the list sometimes.

In my social work education, self-care has become a “buzz word” with constant reminders that an empty cup has nothing to offer another vessel. This seemed to contrast to the occasions where God continued to provide when the “natural laws” would dictate that the resources had long been exhausted.  Examples of this are Elijah and the Oil (1 Kings 17) and Feeding of the 5000 (John 6), for decades, Satan used this contrast to trap me. He made me believe that, provided my intentions were pure, I should keep going, full speed ahead, with reckless abandon.

The miracles referenced were not intended to be used in this way. God allowed these suspensions of His laws to draw others towards the truth. The oil can be used as a reminder of the Living Water Jesus discusses with the Samaritan woman (John 4), and the Feeding of the 5000 as Jesus being the “Bread of Life” (also John 6), but there are important things to remember about these reminders.

The first of which we hear in the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread”.  I am learning, God will provide for our needs, but knowing how poorly we are able to steward the resources, He gives us enough for today with the expectation that we will be back to Him tomorrow for more. This requires consistent dependence on Him to sustain us. 

So is there a Scriptural basis for this? Absolutely. 

In the 10 commandments (Exodus 20), we are reminded to prioritize Sabbath – both the practice and the posture. Jesus, despite being fully God, also models this in His prayer life. Both before and after many of the accounts in the four Gospels, the authors feel it is important we know that Jesus took time away to be with His Father.

In short, I finally see a Biblical case for self-care and it is liberating.

About the Author:

Sarah Smith has been working as a DSP at Karis Disability Services (formerly Christian Horizons) in the North District since Fall of 2020. In addition to providing direct support, Sarah sits on the Diversity and Inclusion committee. Sarah enjoys time with her ever-expanding family, crochet, kayaking, and being in nature. Finding her identity in Christ, Sarah likes to write about how her faith is central to her life. Sarah also personally experiences disability in several invisible ways.