Loving Yourself God’s Way
If someone were to ask you what the greatest commandments in the Bible are, many of you would say what Jesus said: Loving God and Loving Others. You could even recite how Jesus quoted the second greatest commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself.
What has caught my attention recently is the phrase “as yourself” and wondering why that phrase is needed to make the point. Jesus is stating the second greatest commandment from Leviticus 19:18. When you go back to the context of that verse, the preceding ten verses list a variety of ways to love other people. So why doesn’t verse 18 simply conclude by saying something like, “then love your neighbor” or “love others.” Why add the phrase as yourself?
Not surprisingly the majority of commentators I read focused solely on loving others. Many did not even comment on the “as yourself” phrase at all. The ones that did caused me to realize how truly important those little words are.
For openers, where does the origin of love come from? The answer is from God himself. In 1 John 4:10 we read, “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” Since love originates from God, it is through that lens that we are loved. This should give everyone a clearer perspective, since we know that God loves us unconditionally. As I heard years ago, a more accurate self image is derived from focusing on God and not on ourselves.
The issue is twofold. Some feel unworthy and therefore have a distorted image of who they are. Others have an over exaggerated view of themselves and pride becomes a stumbling block. Either way it affects the way we relate to others.
When we know that we are unconditionally loved by God, then we can truly reach out and love others. To put it differently, you can’t give away what you don’t have. So if you don’t believe that God loves you unconditionally, then it is much harder to reach out and show others that unconditional love.
But how does God’s unconditional love translate into proper self love? How does having a good sense of loving yourself not become selfish or prideful? Scripture does give us some guidelines. Philippians 2:3 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.” Romans 15:2-3a states, “We should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t please himself….”
So on the one hand we need to love ourselves because God loved us and gave himself for us. On the other hand we can’t love ourselves to the point that we think it is all about us.
I see these two extremes all the time even in the church. Many Christians, particularly younger women battle unworthiness, especially about their body image. They struggle to understand they are worthy just as God created them. Some Christian husbands even tell their wives that their physical shape isn’t pleasing enough to them. They feel the need for bigger breasts or to lose weight in order to be loved by their husbands. While it is true that we should try to look our best, looking our best should be based on health not on approval of others.
Years ago they did a study on super models and what they thought of their bodies. Almost three quarters of them were not satisfied with how they looked. Super models think this way! If they think this then how does the average woman come to a different conclusion? Shame on some Christians for making women and even some men think they are unworthy or unloved because they don’t meet some unrealistic ideal.
But the other part of the story is there are many in the body of Christ that feel they are God’s gift to the world. I have heard ministers say how much more important they are than others in the church because of the calling of God on their lives. You may have heard it before. A minister feels he has some vision or assignment from God, and if someone questions him, then they are challenging God’s anointed. This should not be so!
So how do we achieve this crucial balance? The solution is to read and obey what the Word of God clearly teaches. So to those that struggle with self love, declare what God says about you and your identity. If you haven’t seen the film, Overcomer, then please see it. This will truly help see yourself as God does.
For those who struggle with pride and an over confident self image, surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable. Loving yourself God’s way will give you freedom from depression if you feel unworthy and proper perspective if you battle pride. Love yourself, yes, but please love yourself in the way that God wants you.