Self Love (Part 1)

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 ESV). Our reading today does give us a very clear principle about how we are to value ourselves. However, the message of our culture has distorted the Scriptural principle by omitting any reference to the gospel when talking about “self-love.” I believe the popular teaching of self-love currently falls short in some fundamental ways. The promise, put simply, is that the more you look inwardly and love yourself, the more you can love others and be at peace and content. One self-love article put it like this: “We treat others in the same way we treat ourselves. And if I am uncertain about my worth, I will be uncertain about the worth of others.” A lack of self-love is seen as the root of all sorts of issues ranging from depression to bullying to obesity. But as appealing as the idea of self-love may sound, I believe there are key ways in which this teaching falls short of the biblical alternative. So, today we will begin to look at a Biblically sound understanding of our worth. First, let’s begin with definitions. This is especially vital when dealing with extremely ambiguous concepts such as self-love, which everyone tends to define individually. The “self-love” I am writing about is that which I have most frequently encountered in our culture. The media and even in the church both define self love based on comparison of others. This is not only a denial of Scripture, but very destructive. Rather, we should understand that self-love is an introspective prioritization of self, aiming at a deeper love and acceptance of self. It is a meditative focus on one’s own positive traits. Self-love seeks freedom from negative thoughts about oneself, whether guilt or insecurity or even awkwardness. It is seen as the key to the love of others and the love of God, because as long as there is any discontent with self, we are unable to devote ourselves to these. However, we must come at this definition from the perspective of the gospel. The gospel reminds us we are all failures, sinners.  To believe anything else is to deny the validity of the Bible.  We are utterly failures. However, the gospel declares that we have the means to be transformed to complete successes in the grace of God extended because of the work of Christ. That is the basis of our hope and success. We are worthy in Him! When we start there everything else is possible for...

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