"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:39)

What does 'the second is like it' mean?

This indicates that Jesus' statement is connected to his previous statement, namely the first and greatest commandment:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)
So this second commandment (or instruction) is "like it." What does 'like it' mean? The phrase, "like it" is being translated from the Greek phrase, ὁμοία αὐτῇ (homoios autos).

The word ὅμοιος (homoios) means "like, similar or resembling" and "corresponding to a thing." And the word αὐτός (autos) means "itself" "it" or "the same." Thus we find the phrase means the two instructions are related: One is coming from the other.

This means that loving others is connected to loving the Supreme Being. If we are loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds, then loving others should come automatically.

What does 'neighbor' mean?

The word "neighbor" means, according to the Collins Dictionary:
1. a person who lives near another
2. a person, country, or thing situated near another

Yes, it can also mean "a fellow human being" according to the dictionary, that use is not its common use. The common use of "neighbor" relates to someone that is nearby.

So was Jesus instructing his followers to love only those who live nearby, or those who share some of the same things we do, like being in the same community or club? Or did Jesus mean love everyone - anyone?

The word "neighbor" is being translated from the Greek word πλησίον (plēsion), which means "any other person, and where two are concerned, the other" according to the lexicon. This means someone other than ourselves. It relates to all of the Supreme Being's children - and thus it relates directly to loving the Supreme Being.

Therefore this must, by default, be expanded to all other living beings, including animals. Animals are also living beings and thus children of God.

This more appropriate meaning is illustrated from the translation of Jesus' statement in the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"And the second is related: ‘Love others as yourself.’"
The word "others" - taken directly from the Greek word πλησίον - reflects the kind of love Jesus is requesting. That we love everyone, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or the body they may be wearing.

Do we have to love ourselves first?

One of the most prevalent interpretations of this statement, as prognosticated by many teachers and self-help gurus, interprets Jesus' teaching to mean we "have to love ourselves before we can love others."

So they teach we must 'learn to love ourselves first.'

But is this correct? Is Jesus teaching us to love ourselves first? Yes, he does say "as yourself" here, taken from the Greek word, σεαυτοῦ (seautou). But does this mean that we have to "learn to love ourselves" first?

The phrase is a colloquialism. It relates to the natural assumption of self-care. Naturally, we all care about ourselves. Our body wouldn't be alive otherwise. This is assumed in such a statement. It is not as if it is an instruction in itself. We already care about ourselves. Even a person who is supposedly doubting themselves already cares about themselves.

It's like saying, "the sun is setting in the evening sky." Naturally, it is the evening sky because the sun is setting. It is not as if the sky has to become "evening" in order for the sun to set.

The philosophy that "we must love ourselves first" contradicts Jesus' instruction completely. To love God with all our heart, soul and mind means putting Him before ourselves. Is this not the definition of love? This means we are caring for God more than ourselves.

Jesus says, "the second is like it." This means the kind of love that we are giving God will naturally also be given to God's children. We cannot love God without loving others. How can we do this if we are loving ourselves first?

To love ourselves according to the self-help gurus means to be really good to ourselves. This means focusing on ourselves. This is the exact opposite of love. This is self-centeredness.

Is self-centeredness consistent with loving others?

By this second statement following and being like the first, this means we have to love God before we can truly love others.

This is the polar opposite of the notion that we have to "love ourselves before we can love others."

Rather, Jesus indicated that all our love should be put upon the Supreme Being, and if this is done, then loving God's children will naturally follow - because God's children are related to Him.

Where does this teaching come from?

Love of God is not a new teaching. It is a teaching that had been taught and handed down through the lineage of the Prophets for centuries.

More specifically, Jesus is quoting part of God's conversation with Moses as God gave Moses instructions for the Israelites in the desert that were following Moses:
"'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18)
The "Do not seek revenge...." part of God's statement means that the instruction was to those who were already prone to self-centeredness. He wanted them to consider others' welfare as they already considered their own.

It is a very practical statement. God's statement to Moses, which is quoted by Jesus, assumes that the Israelites already love themselves.

The situation is no different today. Just look around. What is driving all the activity in this world? Greed. Self-centeredness. Loving ourselves. We are all focused upon what is best for me. What will make me happy. What will give me pleasure.

Even among sectarian teachings, we find that the focus is upon how Jesus can save me. How can Jesus give me wealth and business success. How Jesus can heal me, or help me get along with my family. Nearly everyone in the physical world is focused upon our own welfare (or our extended welfare - our family, nation, institution, etc.). This was the same in Jesus' time as well as during Moses' time.

In other words, there is no lack of people loving themselves. We like to put ourselves first and foremost, because ultimately, we want to be happy.

But the first and greatest commandment is the opposite of this. The first and greatest commandment is to care about God's happiness. The first and greatest commandment says to take our focus and attention away from ourselves and try to please God. This is the meaning of love.

Does God love everyone?

An interesting thing takes place when a person begins to love God. They naturally realize God's intense love for everyone. God is intensely focused on wanting each of us, and all of us, to be happy. This is because God has the perfect love for us.

It is not as if God has any true enemies. Nor does He play favorites. No one can truly challenge God. Yes, He gives us the freedom to deny Him and dislike Him if we wish. But that freedom is given because love requires freedom.

Outside of that freedom, God has no adversaries. He only loves every one of us and wants each of us to be happy.

A person who is truly wanting to please God also realizes that this consciousness: Loving God and wanting to please God; is simply returning the love for us that is already there from Him.

And love for God gives us complete fulfillment. This is the consciousness that makes us completely happy. Just as we get a small glimpse of happiness when we love and serve the temporary family of our body, we get complete satisfaction from loving and wanting to please God.

So the two are connected: It gives pleasure to God when we care about His other children. When we want God to be pleased, we naturally want others to be happy, because this too, is what God wants.

This means we are also related to the Supreme Being and thus our love and care for God must also connect with caring for ourselves. After all, the Supreme Being loves us and wants us to be happy. should we disappoint Him and do something that will only bring us emptiness? Certainly not.

We might compare this to a teenager who knows that his parents want him to graduate from high school and go on to lead a productive life. If the teenager cares about his parents, he will do well in school in order to please his parents.

This is why Jesus said the second instruction is like the first: The two are connected. When we begin to love God we automatically begin loving others, because we are all God's children.

The solution is being delivered by Jesus: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the answer to emptiness and confusion. This instruction will give us guidance and fulfillment. This will give us inner peace. This will give us direction in life.

We do not need to worry about loving ourselves. We can simply rely upon God, and give our hearts to God, and we will naturally begin to love others.