Friday, September 30, 2005

Should We Love Ourselves?


Should we love ourselves? We do, of course, in the natural sense. That's what Jesus was saying when He said to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). He wasn't commanding us to love ourselves, He was pointing out the obvious that we already do.

But should we love ourselves? That depends on how we define "love".

Let me give a working definition of "love", that sort of love that is the fruit of the Spirit, and is good. Here's the definition:

"Love is the fruit of the Spirit in which one desires the greatest good for the object loved, and acts accordingly."

I contend that usually we have to use our God-given "reason" or "common sense" in figuring some biblical things out. I admit that too much "reasoning" can get us into trouble, especially if we reason with unbiblical premises. But here's my point: If God repeatedly tells us to love, and if love is the fruit of the Spirit, does it make sense that we should NOT love ourselves?

Or to put it in terms of my working definition above: If love is the fruit of the Spirit, and desires the greatest good for the object loved . . . shouldn't we desire that greatest good for ourselves? I think it's obvious that we should.

But . . . that leaves open "what is the greatest good for us", doesn't it? And that's where I think the unbiblical notion that "we shouldn't love ourselves" comes in.

For example, would it be our greatest good to be a selfish pig, or a hedonistic worldling, or a self-centered narcissistic "me, me, me" person? Of course not. Would it be our greatest good to take on the philosophy, "It's better to receive than give"? Of course not.

On the other hand, would it be our greatest good to "not think more highly of ourselves than we ought"? Yes! Would it be our greatest good to be selfless servants of our families, our fellow man, and God? Yes! Would it be our greatest good to recognize that we "are fearfully and wonderfully made", yet also recognize, "what do you have that you didn't receive?"?

In other words, our greatest good is to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. Our greatest good is for Jesus to live His life through us. Our greatest good is to believe Him that we are new creations, that old things have passed away, and all things have become new. Our greatest good is to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Our greatest good is to walk by the Spirit, and thereby to not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

If we truly love ourselves, we will love others greatly, because to not do so is to be clanging cymbals, and who wants that?

So, yes, we should love ourselves. To NOT love ourselves would be wrong. But first we have to understand what love is.

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2 comments:

Bobby Capps said...

Should we love ourselves? We do, of course, in the natural sense. That's what Jesus was saying when He said to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). He wasn't commanding us to love ourselves, He was pointing out the obvious that we already do.

Couldn't have said it better. "We already do." My thought is this, if we already do and Jesus told us to look at how we already do and love our neighbor accordingly, was he presupposing a narcissistic love, some evil fleshly love. If he was, why would he tell us to love our neighbors this way?

Terry Rayburn said...

Bobby,

Good point. Thanks!