Sometimes, when we read the Bible, we bring worldly definitions into the words as they are used in Scripture. A good example of this is the word "love."
Most people these days who use the word mean a warm, fuzzy feeling that is inspired by someone that they love. They talk about not being able to eat or sleep, or about thinking of the person that they love all the time, to the point that it starts to impact other areas of their life, often in negative ways.
We talk about falling in love as if it were some kind of hole that we come across as we go through life. And then we talk about falling out of love, as if somehow gravity has reversed itself.
Of course what we really mean by falling in love is that those feelings that we enjoy so much just suddenly came upon us when we see that certain person. And by falling out of love, we mean that when we see that person, those feelings are no longer present, or are not as strong as they once were.
It causes confusion, then, when we read in the Bible that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:9), or that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). After all, how can we have loving feelings for someone we barely know, or even someone we hate? It seems to make no sense! Others see the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and come to the conclusion that they really can't love their neighbors until they learn to love themselves. And by "love themselves," they mean to feel good about who they are and about what they have accomplished.
But none of those views takes into consideration what the Bible means by the word "love." In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, the word "love" (the Greek word is agape, pronounced uh-GAH-pay) has very little to do with emotions, and a great deal to do with action. Love in the New Testament is a verb.
When Jesus says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, he is not talking about how we feel about our neighbors, but about how we treat them. If we are hungry, we feed ourselves; if we are thirsty, we get a drink; if we are cold, we put on a coat; if we get sick, we stay in bed and take medicine so that we can get well. That is loving ourselves as a verb; it has nothing to do with feeling good about ourselves. In the same way, if we love our neighbors like we love ourselves, when they are hungry, we give them food; if they are thirsty, we get them a drink; if they are cold, we provide them with warm clothing; if they are sick, we help them to get well; and if they are lonely, we spend some time with them. All of those are showing love as a verb, and we can do that, whether or not we have warm feelings for them.
The trick comes when we are called upon to love our enemies. Again, that doesn't mean that we have to have warm feelings for them. It simply means that if our enemies are hungry or thirsty, or without warm clothes, we help to meet those needs. If they are sick or lonely, we invest ourselves in them to meet those interpersonal needs. Some might ask how we can do those things for someone we don't even like. But the truth is, it is simply a matter of obedience. And if we will obey, a miracle can happen, and we will find that our feelings toward that person begin to shift a bit in response to our loving actions. And their feelings toward us will often undergo a transformation when they see us selflessly helping to meet the needs that they have!