Love your neighbour as yourself, the Bible says, and when discussing what this verse is about I’ve often talked quite loudly about how the command to love is not about mushy feelings but about loving behaviour.
And of course it isn’t about mushy feelings, like romantic love, but I think feelings do come into the equation: an attitude of heart which places a very high value on someone, an attitude of caring, of actively desiring their well-being.
To love someone as I love myself would mean – if only I could put this into practice – that I place their well-being on the same level of importance as my own. Humans don’t often have that kind of love for others.
Yes, loving behaviour is part of the picture, definitely. If you say you care about someone but you don’t lift a finger to help when they’re struggling, what sort of love is that? And doing the loving thing without having the feeling to back it up – there’s something hugely valuable in that too, it’s a way of practising self-control, learning to resist the temptation to act on our emotions, not letting our feelings rule us. But ultimately the perfect fulfilment of the command is in both feelings and actions.
Lord, I ask you to please help me get closer to fulfilling your command. My human nature is very selfish and self-centred, and loving others as myself does not come naturally to me. Thank you, Jesus, that you don’t just give us commands but you also give us your Spirit to help us get better at obeying you.