Thursday, November 20, 2014

When is Self Love Not Bad?

1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Mat 22:39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The word “bears” has the idea of covering to protect.  Those that we love we want to protect from ridicule and harm.  We don’t want their weaknesses exposed but instead we want to build them up and see them prosper.  Another passage that carries this idea is 1Pe 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Unfortunately it is very easy for us to say we love someone but do very little to prove it.  Often I think we assume we are loving someone if we don’t do them harm but we too many times put little emphasis on actually doing something good and useful for someone.

There is a good way to test how well we love.  Jesus, who knows us better than we know ourselves pointed it out to us when he said that the second great commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I think what he was getting at is to treat each other as we would like to be treated which is well termed: “The Golden Rule”. 

One of the easiest ways for me to know if I am loving someone well is to put myself in their place.  Would I appreciate it if someone said to me what I just said to them?  Would I want that little tidbit that I just told someone said of me?  Would I appreciate that look, that attitude, that tone if directed towards me?  If I will spend the same effort in hiding other people’s faults and the same effort in improving other people’s situation in life as I do my own, I think I would be well on my way to true Christian love.

I have always wondered about the second Great Commandment in the sense that it assumes self-love and so I wonder if we are to look at it as okay or sinful.  I think on one hand Jesus knows that we have a certain self-love instilled in us that is not sinful and part of the human experience; it is something God has put there.  God certainly uses the subject of rewards often enough in the Bible that we have to assume it is okay, in part, to obey him for the promised reward.  Certainly those motivations have to be very carefully controlled but equally clear is that they must be okay if God uses them as part of our motivation to serve him.

At the same time our biggest problem is self-love; not the desire for good things to happen to us as just stated but the desire to love ourselves more than God and everything else.  I don’t believe it is sinful to want to be happy, pain-free, fulfilled, etc.  But it is sinful to see yourself as the center of your universe.  If we pursue our desire to be happy in knowing and serving the Lord, our self-love will be the means to glorify the Lord.  Now that is a strange statement but I think biblical when properly understood. 
If we love each other, we will want others to be as happy as we are by knowing the Lord.  What we must guard against is using others for our own interests but not their good or the Lord’s honor.  Having said all that I find it ironic that I can use self-love to gauge how well I love others, but that is what Jesus told me to do.  But, of course, it means I must love the Lord supremely, otherwise I can’t love myself or others as I am supposed to.

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