Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Ole Love Yourself Debacle

"To love your neighbor as you love yourself means you have to love yourself first." I've heard it on Christian radio, at my kitchen table, in the car. And it's not true.  I'll put it out there and, perhaps, suffer for it. There is no command in the Bible to love yourself. There are no directives on how to love yourself more or better or biblically. Those who disagree generally use a portion of Scripture and draw inferences. I cannot think of one place in the Bible, Old Testament or New that commands me to love myself--or gives the example of Jesus teaching and modeling self before others.

True love does not come from my heart. This will bust your bubble--the natural, stinky heart of mine doesn't love you. It can't. There is nothing in me that will seek your good above my own, that will do what you want instead of what I want with pure motives. For that same reason, I cannot love myself any more than I can love you.
True love comes from God for "God is love." Want love? Go to God. Want to love others better? More? Love them, period? Go to God.

If you and I find ourselves critical, judgmental, gossiping, slandering fools it's because we have failed to recognize God's love for us. When I read Scripture as a list of do's and don't's or failures and successes it's because of the way I view God, not because of the way God views me. How often I turn from feasting--choking--on dry bread at His table, then turn and apply that same judgment to others.

But when I pray and ask God for His view of Scripture and read it with an eye for who He is--for grace, love and mercy--drinking in the richness of His goodness, I display and share that same goodness with others. I view myself and others through the lens of God's grace rather than the lens of my need--my need to be better, my need to know more, my need to excel, my need to please God. The nourishment I receive from God is passed on to others and we grow.  Together.

Through Christ, I experience the love of God--all of it--and it is steadfast. Through faith in Christ I am accepted, wanted, covered, protected, cared for. I do not need to perform, be better, have more of, do more. I am. Jesus loves me. Jesus gave it all--for me. And although I do not deserve His death (or His life) it is mine. Because of who He is. That's grace. That's God.
And that's enough.

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,  and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
As He says also in Hosea:
“I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
“And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.” (Romans 9:22-26)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

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