Luke 10:27 – "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and "Love your neighbour as yourself." (NIV)
Loving yourself is a divine law! It is in the great commandment in Scripture. Yet for many of us, a love of self has become synonymous with ungodly selfish pursuits. In Scripture, there are far more references to godly self-love than to ungodly self-love. Loving yourself is important to God. The following personal story can help us understand the difference between true and false self-love:
- As I was exiting the auditorium after a concert, I noticed a small pile of scattered items. This was obviously a grab-pile, free for the taking. So I set down my purse, and went to rummage through the pile. I picked up some necklaces and scarves, and placed them near my purse. Then I gathered up a few more things… and more… and more. The display of items seemed to grow larger and larger as I gathered. It spread so wide that it soon looked more like a gigantic yard sale. As I was furiously gathering up my stock, thoughts came to my mind, like, I really don't need this; I already have that; that's not really so pretty. I also had a faint sense of others nearby, also hoarding things. Yet I could not dislodge myself from my own mission long enough to look at them. Finally, when I felt amply supplied, I went to retrieve my purse. But I could not find it. I looked and looked through the mountain of stuff I had gathered — until it was finally clear that it was gone. Horrors!
Then I awoke. This dream was an answer to my prayer for guidance on this topic of self-love. It serves as an ideal visual aid.
In this dream, the evidence of self-indulgent love is obvious. You see the addictive drive, insatiable craving, lack of self-control, preoccupation, and inability to notice others or even care about them. It is narcissistic self-absorption. It is not true self-love. We could even call it self-hatred, because it harms the self in the end.
Did you notice what was lost in this dream? It was my purse — most significantly the items in it: proofs of identification and so forth. I lost everything that was important, as far as my temporal identity is concerned. I had essentially abandoned my identity, my place in the world, and my means of fulfilling my life's responsibilities. You could say: I despised it and sold it all for a "bowl of stew".
You know where this is going … We recall Esau, who despised his birthright, which in essence was his God-given place as family patriarch, his inheritance, and God's promises for himself and his descendents. He despised his very identity and abandoned it all. In essence, he hated himself and rejected God's love. Esau defied the greatest commandment: He failed to love himself.
We could apply it like this: Loving yourself is to gratefully accept your "birthright" in Christ and to enjoy the many privileges in this relationship. It is to honour your God-given destiny. We trust God for all our needs. He is our provision, protection, meaning, and purpose. In this way, we let God love us — fully and unreservedly.
Prayer: Lord, help each of us to keep rooted in Your unsurpassable love, so that we may love self truthfully. Help us form habits that reflect Your love to those around us — that is, our neighbours. Amen.