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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Does Bible Teach Us To Love Ourselves?

There was an "in saying" in the eighties that we need to learn how to love ourselves. The thinking behind this saying was because Jesus said "love your neighbour as yourself". The reasoning went something like this:

"how can you love others if you do not know how to love yourselves? Therefore, you need to focus on who you are in Christ and why Jesus loves you, so that you can love yourself. Once you see how valuable you are to God and love yourself, then you will treat others with the same love and respect".

Can you all see the subtlety of the serpent in that reasoning? In reality this teaching introduced many other ideas all resulting in Christians becoming more self centred.

Before, I go on to expose how this reasoning is humanistic, demonic, soulish, new age and TOTALLY unscriptural I will just say that this sort of teaching (and many other similar types) in the late 1970's and 1980's became the bedrock enabling the acceptance of all sorts of other false unscriptural teachings which have enveloped our churches in these last 3 decades, becoming part of the apostasy we now see.

I write this article because I heard a Pentecostal speaking to another saying "you need to learn how to love yourself". I challenge all my readers to show me in the Bible where it clearly states that we should learn how to love ourselves?

I will now demonstrate that the Bible DOES NOT teach such things by starting at the beginning. Remember that we can learn
much about the subtleties of satan in the garden of Eden. Sin first entered the world through disobedience to God. This disobedience came because the serpent persuaded Eve that she could become like God (or become a god). Eve believed the lies. Her selfish desires suddenly rose up tempted by the argument and realisation of  how she could experience something better for herself. These were lies designed to cause her and Adam to die spiritually (and that is exactly what happened).

So (in a sense) we could say that Adam and Eve took their focus away from God and centred their focus on themselves. They believed that they should seek something better for themselves - ie they were taught how to "love themselves" above their love for God. Jesus said "if you love me you will obey my commandments". Adam and Eve DID NOT obey God's commandment, therefore they showed that they did not love God, but clearly they DID love THEMSELVES.

In trying to obtain equality with God they actually lost everything. The beautiful harmony in the garden and their unique relationship with God was lost. Instead of having a quality within themselves which could live eternally in glory, they became sinners with a new human sinful nature separated from God. The change became immense. Instead of them experiencing spiritual life in abundance within them (as they ate from the tree of life) they were now separated from that tree. The change was similar to the difference between life and death. This is why Jesus died for us. He came to take our place, bearing the full punishment of  our sins and sinfulness, so that we could be restored back to a relationship with God that God always intended us to have. We can AGAIN eat from the tree of life (JESUS). This is why Jesus said "I have come that you may have LIFE and have it more abundantly".

Getting back to the question ...... I have already tried to show how the enemy of our soul's is very cunning and will seek to corrupt what God has said by changing God's Words (slightly, hardly noticeable) to centre your attention on self.  he knows that if he can take your eyes off God and focus you on how great you are as "gods"  (I heard one speaker say that we are ALL awesome) instead, he can lead you into all other sin and deception.

The Bible DOES NOT teach that we should learn how to love ourselves. In fact it teaches the exact opposite. Jesus said "if you love your life, you will lose it. If you lose your life for my sake, you will find it". He said "if any man will follow after me, he must DENY HIMSELF take up his cross and follow after me". 

So, when Jesus said "love your neighbour as yourself" was He saying that we should love ourselves first?

The two greatest Commandments "to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind soul and strength" "love your neighbour as yourself". Both are to do with love. They are how we relate to God and how we relate to each other. The focus is external. In the gospels we have 2 examples of loving our neighbour and BOTH relate to DENYING SELF. First, the good samaritan who denied himself by giving of his time and resources in helping the one in need. Secondly, the rich young ruler who was encouraged to sell what he had and give to the poor. Jesus NEVER stated  "go away, learn how to love yourself, then once you are ready come back and help those in need". He never even explained what it meant by "as yourself". It was OBVIOUS to all His hearers that they should treat others as they would like to be treated BUT without demanding these things for themselves. Jesus DID say (in another place) "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Jesus NEVER said that we should wait until others do unto us before we do unto them. In fact He stated that we should do unto others without expecting in return.

These things should show us that loving our neighbour as ourselves DOES NOT contain any focus (whatsoever) on self but TOTALLY a self sacrificial love which denies self completely.

Someone said something which is far more scriptural.  The secret of J O Y is:
J    Jesus first 
O  Others second
Y   Yourselves last

Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. Paul said that in humility we should count others better than ourselves. He also said that "I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me". Paul also stated "in my flesh dwells no good thing". "Who will save me from this body of death".

It is true that God loves us so much that He died for us. Logic might say that He died for us because we were worth dying for. We have the tendency to measure God's thinking by our own and draw conclusions about God using our finite minds. "as high as the heavens are above the Earth, so are my ways above yours and my thoughts above yours, says the Lord" The truth is that God loves us because HE IS LOVE. He does not love us because of anything we have done or who we are but He loves us despite what we are. "all our righteousness is like filthy rags in God's sight". "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". He didn't die for us because we were special but because HE wanted to save us.

In Christ we ARE special. When God sees us He sees Christ within us. He sees the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin. We are reckoned to be faultless now, because all our sins are forgiven, we are cleansed and washed clean. The Holy Spirit within us is changing us into the image of Christ. IT IS NOT US who are righteous but CHRIST who is in us. We are TOTALLY dependant on Christ, His grace and eternal mercy. Our focus and gaze should be upon Jesus and what He has done for us and NEVER focus on who WE ARE.

As in Philippians 2:5-8:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservantand coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross"

Humanism (which has entered the church) basically teaches that we are gods on the earth. It is no wonder that WE decided what is best for this earth and what is politically correct in behaviour etc and that our thinking is greater than what the Bible teaches - no wonder that the Bible has taken a back seat in our churches replaced by humanistic thought and experiences etc.

New Age also teaches similar things about the god within us. Basically, the teaching of loving ourselves is diametrically opposed to NT teaching because it comes from the enemy of the church.

In closing, let us do as Jesus told us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness". as Paul said "seek those things above where Christ Jesus is, NOT those things on Earth" The result of seeking first God's Kingdom, dying to self, living to God etc was "and all these other things will be added unto you". If we seek the right things, God will provide us with everything we need. "He will supply all your need" Phil 4:19  (notice: need, not WANT).
Here is an excellent audio which says much more about this whole topic. I fully recommend you listen to it, especially if you are suffering with self image. Please click on this link:


John Chingford said...

For those who get my automatic "comments" updates but not the "new articles" updates, I just want to notify you of an important new article.

I have just made an addition to the article by including an excellent audio shortcut link (at the bottom)which nicely complements and supplements my article by including other encouraging teaching on the subject.

Pastor David Hall said...

I can understand your reasoning John, but Jesus said that we are to love ourselves (Agape) which is the love we should have towards ALL people. Many people today do not know how to love, because they have never been shown love.

When Jesus told the hearers of his day to love their neighbour they had a system where love was a part of the family environment. In Cyprus families will protect each other and that is how we are to be towards our neighbour as Christians.

It is a very touchy subject in this day and age. Jesus means that we are to include our neighbour and love them as we would love ourselves, which is probably the hardest thing to do as a Christian.

Focusing on loving ourselves in the New Age, Joel Osteen way is not what Jesus was talking about.


Pastor David Hall

John Chingford said...

Hi David

Thanks for your response. I am just wondering where Jesus told us to love ourselves? If you are referring to "love your neighbour as yourself" it wasn't a command to love ourselves but to love our neighbour.

It was assumed that everybody knew how to put themselves first and how to bless themselves by supplying for their own needs. Jesus is telling us to love others in the same way that we care for ourselves.

The attention of his message wasn't about learning how to love ourselves but learning how to love others. Jesus used the example of the good Samaritan to show how we should DENY OURSELVES and FOCUS on the needs of our neighbours.

Actually (in a round about way) I think we are in agreement. We can also learn or be stirred to love others by receiving love from others (as it says in Hebrews "let us consider how to stir one another unto love and good works").

The point is that we are instructed NOT to focus on serving ourselves but others.

Please check out the audio shortcut link which is excellent.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought that loving ourselves (too much, and thereby God and everyone else too little in comparison) was at the root of all our problems?

For me, anyway.

God bless.

Nic said...

Hi John

Thanks for that posting. I have been doing a bit of study in this area but had not thought about the Philippians reference in regards to this subject.


MHF said...

Thank you for this article. It is so 'right on'. We definitely do love ourselves. That is the problem.

John Chingford said...

Thanks Anonymous, Nic, and MHF
Appreciated. It is always good to get feedback. Thanks everyone for the encouragement.
God bless

Pastor David Hall said...

Hi Again, Being SELFISH is NOT loving ourselves. We MUST Love ourselves as Jesus loved us. You did not obviously understand what I wrote. Agape is an all encompassing love and one that does not spoil us or others.

Real love will show us what we really need to be doing...we need to die to our SELFISH ways and be made ALIVE in him, that is LOVING OURSELVES as we give all of our burdens over to the Lord and allow him to be the one who supports and cares for us...that is the love I am talking about and that is the love we need to show to others.

Many blessings

John Chingford said...

Hi Pastor David

I can "sort of" see what you are saying. However, there is no clear cut scripture verse or passage that tells us to love ourselves.

As I explained (in an earlier comment) the only passage (that I am aware of) that could be misinterpreted as "love yourself" is "loving your neighbour as yourself" but as was shown it wasn't talking about loving yourself but was talking about focussing your thoughts on your neighbour.

In fact we are told to "fix your thoughts on Jesus" and to "set your affections on those things which are above, NOT on those things below" ie those things below include self.

If we are to fix our minds on Jesus and to "seek first His kingdom" and to "lay down our lives" for others, how can we have time to love ourselves.

I state these things to avoid any confusion of others thinking it is okay to focus on "bless me, bless me" attitudes.

I know that you meant differently, ie if we focus on serving God and others (because of our love for God) we will be blessed! "more blessed to give than to receive" If we focus in the right direction and abide in the vine, we will "grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord" meaning we will (inadvertently) be loving ourselves because of what we will receive.

My problem with that is that MAYBE the only reason we do certain things for God (or others)is because we are seeking the blessing rather than true self sacrifice.

This means we are still putting the emphasis on self gratification. Our goal should be to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord" regardless whether there are rewards or not.

"have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, that although He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God something to be grasped but EMPTIED Himself .......etc"

John Chingford said...

Of course, I don't mean the same thing as in what monks do eg asceticism etc.

In fact the above will take a lifetime to get to, in any case. Even then it will not be perfect. It is the Lord who works in us to do it.

Of ourselves (our own abilities and strength) we CANNOT live up to that. That should not mean that we reject it because it is impossible. "All things are possible with God".

"for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" Phil 2:13

As long as we are aware of and embrace "correct" teaching about NOT focussing on self, the rest will follow.

John Chingford said...

Hi David

I have just read through both our comments again. I think I am starting to understand (a bit more) what you were saying. I think you may "have something" there.

I mean, the reason we give our lives to Jesus (in the first place) is because of loving ourselves - we want to be saved from our sins. That clearly is not wrong!

Everything we do in obedience to God is because of the joy we get in pleasing Him.

Hmmm. I may be wrong in what I wrote in my last 2 comments.

Myfanwy said...

Hi John,

Personally, I have found it much easier to love others, when I don't love myself too much! Agape love is God's kind of love, it is a love for others that is not some sappy human feeling. Human love ebbs and flows, God's love is always present and always strong.

I think the only way to 'love ourselves' is by being obedient to God, and loving Him more than anyone or anything.

By fellowshipping with God, and studying His word, we are actually looking after ourselves. And when we grow close to the Lord, we want to love and help others.

There is far too much of this self-love talk going on. It does distract you from revering, and being in awe of God and His holiness. We know God loves us with an unfailing love and He also disciplines us because He love us.

Just my thoughts anyway.

Anonymous said...

Just landed on this blog. Don't know anything about blogs, just wanted to comment to Pastor David Hall that I completely agree with the spirit of his comment about loving ourselves as the Lord loves us. I am searching, as a person who was abused as a child and shown by both paents that I was not loved, for a way out of the very selfish and addictive behaviors I have lived many years with. I understand selfishness (self love - participating in addiction) but when I explore Jesus' love for me, why is it that I then come out of my depression, start taking care of myself in disciplined ways (not selfish ways) and feel happy? Why do I feel like part of a family (not alone) when I realize that God loves me, and that I should love myself the way that He does? His love truly motivates me to take better care of (love) myself and gives me the desire to glorify Him in all that I do.

BL said...

Anonymous, when one is denied the basics of loving parents it leaves a void in one's life and the constant search for something to fill that void. It also makes it difficult to understand exactly what love is.

The only thing that can fill that void is the love of Christ. When we learn how much He loves us it fills up the emptiness we suffer from not receiving love from the very ones who are supposed to give it to us. I think those who have suffered abuse find in Christ the One Who can truly heal the brokenness and give new life. I speak from experience.

Even after being saved it is a struggle to arrive at a proper "self-image". I hate that term but use it for lack of a better word. Satan wants us to be self-destructive. Jesus wants to heal our hurts and bind up our wounds so that we can love others and help others and serve Him.

I agree with myfanwy that the world is all about self and pleasing self and we should not concentrate on loving ourselves. Jesus proved His love for us on the cross. As we receive that love and come to know Him more and more it is not about loving ourselves, but rather being a conduit of His love to others. Jesus came as a servant and gave Himself for us. He set the example.

I think John is correct in calling out self-love. That is the psycho babble of the world - having healthy "self-esteem", learning to love ourselves, etc. We just need to know how much Christ Jesus loves us and that is our foundation. Then we learn to love Him and that relationship is the basis for joy in our lives.

I might add that those who have suffered abuse tend to seek perfection and castigate ourselves for our failures and weaknesses. That is a trap and one which we must avoid, but the way to do that is to bask in the love of our Lord and know that He forgives and restores and will never leave us or forsake us. He also gives us grace to forgive our abusers and there is healing power in that.

The Bible says that the heart is deceitful and there is nothing to love in it. When we surrender to Christ we are new creations and His love makes us acceptable to God, not anything we do of ourselves.

I don't know if this makes any sense and if I have expressed it very well, but I just think that in the Christian life there is no room for self-love and the only love that matters is Christ's love for us.

As believers we have the Holy Spirit which confirms Christ's love for us as the Comforter, and enables us to love others and display the fruits of His indwelling our hearts.

Anonymous said...

Christ is our example for loving and serving others. I have not found in the scriptures where Christ said he loved his self. Instead it seems clear that Christ obeyed his Father because of the Father's love. Am I missing something? I am instructed to be satisfied in Christ, this would include satisfaction in the love of our Father God.