Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Are self-love and Christianity compatible? Some people may lead you to believe that they are not, but Jesus speaks to this question when He spells out the importance of love in Matthew 22:37-40. He gives us the greatest commandment – to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The second one, He states, is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Before all else, we must love God first- with every part of our being. It is our rock solid foundation for all that follows, including knowing how to love ourselves and show His love to others. God didn’t create man because of boredom, loneliness, or need. He created us in His image to enjoy a loving relationship with Him. If God’s image is one of unfathomable worth, then being made in His image helps us understand our own worth and purpose.
The Bible warns us in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 that in “the last days perilous times will come” and people will be “lovers of themselves… rather than lovers of God.” So, there is a distinction in self-love that we need to understand. The 2 Timothy verses speaks of a sinful self-love. Paul describes the love in this verse as the Greek word philautos, a selfish and arrogant self-love; intent only on one’s self-interests. People will completely take their eyes off God and their lives will revolve only around themselves and their interests. We see this a lot with right-wing politicians these days. In contrast, the love Jesus speaks of in Matthew was agape love, i.e., Christian love or brotherly love. It is an unselfish love, and the love we should show for God, self, and others.
Christian self-love is based on the love God has for us- selfless and unconditional. While many of us know our identity in Christ and believe He loves us unconditionally, we can still struggle with a right self-love attitude. As gay Christians, this is one of our greatest struggles. We are often taught that our sexuality is an abomination, and we have to get past that by understanding those clobber passages that people throw at us. Once we understand that we were created in God’s own image, we can accept our sexuality as part of us, and then we can begin to love ourselves. We often look in the mirror and concentrate on the things we don’t like about ourselves. It may be our physical self, or things we regret saying or doing in the past. It may be our sexuality or gender. We dislike some of our character traits and feel insecure and guilt. We beat ourselves up over our shortcomings. What we need to realize is that if we are created in God’s image, and we love and obey God, then the way He made us is not a shortcoming.
Enemies of God love to get inside our head and tell us our looks/personality/failures/sexuality, etc., means we’re not worthy of love. How wrong they are! They are the inner bully that eggs us on to self-loathing instead of self-love. They will try anything to separate us from God’s love. However, we are all beautiful inside and out. Our failures make us stronger if we learn from them, and our sexuality is part of who we are. Too many people want to see others hurt so they can feel better and more superior about their own lives. Instead of following God’s word, they want to hit us over the head with their distorted beliefs and hatred.
We need to remember that our self-love is based on the deep agape love of God and that Jesus’ selfless sacrifice saved us. Therefore, He never wants us to see ourselves as worthless! Listening and believing what He says about us helps us have the correct attitude of self-love. We know as Christians that we are not perfect but that God’s love can make us whole. Christian self-love admits our guilt and flaws, confessing and surrendering ourselves to Jesus. His grace never puts us down or shames us. He doesn’t want us to pick ourselves apart or become consumed with insecurities. Likewise, He doesn’t want us on the other end of the spectrum with an inflated, prideful ego. Pride is in us by nature. We have to work against it and not allow it consume us. You can be proud of who you are, that’s why we celebrate pride every June, but there is a different in having pride in who we are and being so prideful that it hurts others. Acknowledging His boundless love and what He has done for us should fill us with a humble spirit. Through Him, we see ourselves as his loving creation. Self-love comes through seeing ourselves as He sees us. That gives us the correct balance of humility and confidence to love ourselves correctly.
Our self-love will naturally waver from time to time. We can overcome, however, and free ourselves from negative thoughts. It takes persistence (it’s a lifelong process), knowing what He says about us in His Word, and a resolve to keep our eyes on Jesus.
We need to learn, value, and accept our identity in Christ. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We have to recognize we are not perfect. No one is perfect! We need to forgive and show compassion to ourselves. Self-love is about self-acceptance. We have to accept who we are before we can love who we are.
In the words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Can I get an amen up in here?
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