Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31, NLT
You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself. There are a number of variations of this quote. Often used to promote self-love and acceptance, and honor one’s self-worth. The idea of self-love, however, also has gotten a lot of criticism among evangelicals. Why? Self-love is selfish. Another often used quote. Arguing the idea that the concept of self-love is unholy, ungodly, and borne of selfish desire and conceit.
Let me offer another perspective.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:14-16, NLT
What is described above is a labor of love. A love so immense it cannot be put into words. It is something not found in the world. That cannot be recreated. God desires that we know this about ourselves. He desires that we know the care He took in making all our unique parts. All our talents. That we celebrate all the ways we are complex, and not like any other-before the world tells us we are broken, different, not enough, and too much of something. He desires that we know we are loved, before the world tells us we are unloveable. We cannot know this without knowing just how much we are loved by God. We must know the kind of love He has for us, and love all the ways in which He has made us. In turn, love ourselves.
Because we can’t pour out love to anyone, explain this immense love to others, that we don’t even have or understand for our own selves.
The self-love that others criticize so fervently is really what is referred to as “self-made.” This term indicates that one is “made by one’s own actions.” That everything someone has, whether it is their character, their success, their talents-they did that all on their own. They are the lord of their life, not God. And this is the self-love the “world” screams of-not the self-love that God desires.
He does desire that we love ourselves first, in the way He loves us. In the ways He made us. Remembering that He provided us with the talents, the strength, the gifts. That none of our success is possible without Him.
When we understand this-then we can go out, and REALLY love on others. In the way Jesus did.
Love God. Love yourself (because it’s biblical), and love others like God loves you!
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