Bible Question:

What does God mean when He says, “Love others as yourself? ” Does it mean to protect people from harm that you might do to them?

Bible Answer:

You are talking about the golden rule,

The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (NASB) Matthew 22:39

In order to understand it, lets start with an illustration of “loving others as yourself.”

A man who had just arrived in Heaven, told Peter how grateful he was to be in such a glorious place, and asked Peter to give him one glimpse into Hades out of curiosity. This Peter did.

In Hades he saw a long table extending as far as one could see, laden down with the most delicious of all kinds of food. But everyone around the table was starving. When asked for an explanation, Peter said, “Everyone is required to take food from the table only with four-foot long chopsticks. They are so long that no one can take the food from the table and put into his mouth. Therefore each one is dying of starvation.

Quickly they returned to Heaven, and behold, the new arrival saw an identical table, laden down with the same foods, but everyone around the table was happy and well fed. Then he said to Peter, “How do they take food from the table?” Peter answered. “Only with four-foot long chopsticks.” At that the new arrival was confused and asked, “Then why are all those in Hades starving to death while all those up here are well fed and happy?” Then Peter answered, “In Heaven we feed each other!”

While the story is obviously not true, it is a great illustration of “loving others as yourself.” “To love others as yourself” is simply doing for others what you would do for yourself. Listen to a few examples from the following passages,

Example of Loving Others (NASB)Passage
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.John 15:12-13
. . . he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. “And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’Luke 10:25-32
. . . give preference to one another in honor.Romans 12:10
. . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love,Ephesians 4:2

The key to loving others as ourselves is to depend on the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16). Our problem is not an absence of love because God’s love has already been poured out into our heart (Rom. 5:5). Our problem is sin in our heart. We need to admit our sin of not loving others as ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to love through us.

Conclusion:

Saint Francis of Assisi was terrified of leprosy. One day on the narrow path he was traveling, he saw something very white in the sunshine. It was a man with leprosy! Instinctively his heart shrank back, recoiling and shuddering in fear of the disease. But then he rallied. Ashamed of himself and realizing he would want to be loved and accepted, he ran and cast his arms about the sufferer’s neck and kissed him and passed on. A moment later he looked back. There was no one there, only the narrow, empty road in the hot sunlight. Ever afterwards, he was sure it was not a leper but Jesus Christ who met him.
Let us love one another as we would want to be loved.