Someone recently asked, ‘what is self-love that isn’t selfish,’ and after digging deep into scripture here is what one of our columnists found.
I don’t believe we have a problem loving ourselves, or at the very least putting ourselves first, after all, that's what God has saved us from, ourselves. Our favourite worship songs are often about how much God loves 'me', and how he sees 'me', and our favourite scriptures are often about what God says about 'me' (Psalm 139). We think about ourselves a lot.
To have a conversation about self-love, we must first understand what is meant by self-love. A definition online defines it as: "regard for one's well-being and happiness." Often the root of the self-love message is people trying to "find themselves" and "know themselves" which is not bad at all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to take care of yourself. God cares about our joy and mental health, but I think there is a toxic form of self-love that can become selfish - when it contradicts the image and call of love in the Bible.
In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
The call is to first "Love God..", and then to "Love our neighbour..". There is nowhere in scripture where Jesus says 'love yourself so you can love others'. I wonder if the reference to loving our neighbour as ourselves is in direct reference to the first commandment. What I mean is, maybe the self-love Jesus is talking about is as a result of having depth in our relationship with God. A right view of ourselves in light of who God is. I also see an example of self-sacrificing love in Christ dying on the cross. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved THE WORLD, that he gave his only Son", not "God so loved HIMSELF".
So I wonder if when God commands us to first love him with all our hearts, mind, soul and strength it's because there is no true knowledge of self without knowledge of God. Whenever people faced God in the Bible they immediately became aware of who they were, for example, Isaiah (Isaiah 6) and Moses (Exodus 34:1-9). When Moses asks God, "who am I?", God never answers his direct question but puts himself (God) back at the centre.
When I look at the message of self-love today, I hear, "put yourself before everything/everyone else", and Loved Girl, that's not biblically sound. The call is almost always to put ourselves last. Practising what is emphasized in scripture is what will help us become the best version of ourselves, image-bearers of Christ. I also don’t want to oversimplify things and make light of the insecurities we struggle with, however, let's remember that the good news of the gospel is not "Girl, you've got this, you're enough" its “You're not enough, and you don’t have to be, because Jesus is enough" that's where our confidence lies.
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Bottom Photo by: Steve Halama on Splash