There is never, ever a time in the Bible where you will find a command, reminder, suggestion, story, parable or principle about loving yourself. We are never instructed to “find ourselves” or to work on our self-love. We are never told to spend time thinking of ourselves at all, actually. This can be confusing when you are bombarded with the world’s philosophy. The world’s philosophy is most often void of Jesus. The world’s philosophy tells us to follow our hearts, it tells us that we can’t love others until we spend time understanding how to better love ourselves. The world’s philosophy tells us that we can’t help others until we first help ourselves. The world’s philosophy is self-centered, humanistic and it’s so, very empty.
Now before I get accused of suggesting that Christians walk around depressed, wearing dirty rags, hanging their heads in shame, let me explain. I did not create this world and it doesn’t revolve around me. Most of us spend our whole lives trying to understand this. We literally come out of the womb focused on ourselves and our own needs – and it never, really changes. Sure, we may feel down, discouraged or negative about what we look like or what we wish we could change about ourselves, but even that in and of itself is us spending time thinking about ourselves and our feelings.
Jesus arrived on this planet with a new message; a radical message; a life-changing message. It was mind-boggling when he spoke these words and it still remains mind-boggling hundreds and hundreds of years later. “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. I can’t even imagine the wide-eyes of those listening. I still cannot grasp its depth. I’m supposed to love someone else as much as I love myself? Is that even possible? What would that even look like? I’ll tell you what it looks like. I speak, not as an expert, but as a child of God that will face this battle every single day for the rest of my life. Loving someone else as much as I love myself would mean that I’m constantly wanting others to know the Lord and to understand His truth. It would mean that I want them to be happy, to have more, to be comfortable and taken care of, to have their needs met. I would be focused 24/7 on their ultimate good. I would spend time thinking about their feelings and how certain words or actions would make them feel. Can you even stop for a second and imagine what kind of world we would live in if we all at least attempted to do this? And yet – this side of heaven, it will never happen. Not as long as Christians accept the lie that we need to spend our limited time on this planet focused on ourselves. Not as long as we entertain ideas from Satan that we just need to work on our own self-love and master that before we can expend the time to love on others. Do you realize that if we did this, we very possibly would NEVER love others? We could very well spend an entire lifetime trying to “discover ourselves” and love ourselves how we deem fit.
No. Jesus knew exactly what He was saying. He knew it was an appropriate message then and that it would continue to be so. He knew that we are born with self-love. We wake up thinking of how we feel and what we want to do with our day and we go to bed with the same thoughts. It’s innate. It’s truly all about us. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or a non-Christian; depressed, happy or mad. It doesn’t matter if you are a giving person or a stingy person or if you are young or old. Our worlds revolve around us. And Jesus knew it. He told us, not to love ourselves and THEN love our neighbors. No, He told us to “love thy neighbor as THYSELF”.
He tells us in Ephesians 5:29, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:”
We are also told, “…in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:3a-5)
Christian, do you deny the accuracy of these verses? God’s Word, our source of all truth, tells us in extremely plain language that NO ONE has ever hated his own flesh. It reminds us that we are born loving, nourishing and cherishing ourselves. Jesus knew exactly what words we would need to correct our faulty thinking even all of these years later. He knew how to truly challenge us. He knew that if we could even take a portion of our self-love and apply it to others, that it would radically change our world – by first changing us.
We don’t need to schedule time to love ourselves. We need to schedule intentional time to love the Lord and others. It will be one of the greatest life challenges we have ever faced. We will fail time and time again. We will have to “die daily” to ourselves so that we can really live the way Christ wanted us to live. But if we love Him…if we truly love Him…we will keep His commandments. It couldn’t be more clear – use your time and energy today to get your focus off of yourself and think of pleasing God and loving on others. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:30-31