Ever wondered why loving ourselves well is so hard?
The answer is simpler than all the “10 keys” and “tip sheets” let on.Self-focused-self-love is strenuous because it’s sin. And sin is high maintenance. Click To Tweet
We seem to get the idea of self-love from the second greatest commandment: “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mt 19:19). Reasonably, we complete the logic puzzle: if we only love our neighbors as well as we love ourselves, then we must love ourselves well.
What does “loving ourselves” mean?
In John 15:12, Jesus explained the command this way: “love each other as I have loved you.”
A huge part of the problem with the Self-Love Gospel is a lack of definition. We don’t know what love is, so we focus on how we feel about ourselves.
According to God’s Word love is:
- God (1 Jn 4:8)
- An earnest desire for someone’s good (R.T. Frances’s commentary on Matthew)
- Patient, kind, enduring (1 Cor 13)
- An actionable, devoted choice to prefer another over self (Rom 12:10, Jn 15:13)
Self-focused self-love doesn’t exactly fit with the Biblical example or definition of love.
What is godly, righteous, true self-love?
When God talks about loving others as ourselves, He is speaking about loving with the love we have received. That includes receiving rest, comfort, and the responsibility to take care of ourselves- but it’s all from and because of who God is.True self-love is founded on being a loved-self. Godly self-love is living as those God so loved and loves. Click To Tweet
How does receiving God’s love affect our view of self?
Living as God’s beloved naturally results in giving ourselves over to God. Our view of loved-selves is transformed. We see ourselves in light of who God is and who we are to Him. Feelings cease to define us as the wonderful truth that we belong to and are loved by God becomes our identity.
We receive God’s love by submitting to Christ who is entirely good. We actually, because of real love, willingly sacrifice and surrender ourselves to God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.” We trust His will because He has so loved us. (Rom 12:2)
As we lay down our lives to gain our souls, we are remade as recipients and vessels of God’s love. It is with our saved soul that we are to “love the Lord (our) God with all the heart, mind, and soul.” This, as God makes clear, “is the first and greatest command.”
With that definition in hand, we can revisit the second command (which is like the first.)
What is “loving others as we love ourselves?”
Instead of loving others because of how we feel about ourselves, we are to love others with the love we have received. God says that real love comes from Him. (1 Jn 4:7)
When we received His love given on the cross, He sent the Spirit to live in us.
“God lives in us and his love is made complete in us…God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” -1 Jn 4:12, 11
First and foremost, loving others with godly love is desiring for others to know God personally. Loving others as our loved selves often looks like:
- Doing good to others (Lk 6:31-35)
- Bearing with one another humbly (Eph 4:2)
- Being patient, kind, etc… (1 Cor 13)
- Growing and increasing in righteous relationship (1 Thes 3:12)
- Being sincere and caring deeply (1 Pt 1:22)
- Being compassionate (1 Pt 3:8)
- Learning from God how to treat one another (1 Thes 4:9)
Other ways of loving others based on the love we have received from Christ include praying for, persisting with, forgiving, and pointing others to God. This real, true, pure love is not self-focused, but God-focused.
Is self-love sin after all?
The basis of self-love as resulting from and focusing on self is sin. It takes what is right- receiving God’s love– and distorts it. Refracting the glory of God, it shines the light on each of us. Corrupted self-love adores the old nature instead of the maker who is making us new.
Yes, that is sin. Yes, that is hard to maintain.
Yes, the Thief loves that it is so. When we buy the wares of self-love he sells, we purchase counterfeits designed to slowly kill and destroy (though they’re packaged in the disguise of angelic light.)
Watch for the glow of counterfeit self-love. Be warned against its falsehood and dangers. No matter how valid self-love feels, it is fleeting and fickle. The love we’re to have- and to give!- is love received.
Self-love is not an antidote to give a hurting world, but a loved-self that loves freely injects the solution- Our Savior.
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