We have been discussing the reality that some Christians find it difficult to love their neighbors because they do not understand the concept of love enough for them to love themselves. We generally have this false concept of self-love which results in activities of self-indulgence that lead folks to “over-loving” themselves to the point of neglecting the needs of others close to them. We “love” ourselves so much and do not love others nearly enough. Our warped idea of self-love is the root of the greed we see in society and the determination to win by all means necessary. If we must face facts and look deeper into the idea of love, we find that most of us do not love ourselves enough and because of this lack of love for ourselves we end up hurting others rather than loving them the way God wants us to.
When we think about love in general, many of us think about something that makes us feel mushy or sentimental. We think in terms of the “eros” kind of love that makes people desire to be desired based on some momentary attraction. We tend to think love is about a feeling, but many times we have learnt from the word of God that “love acts” (1 Corinthians 13). The love we reference when we talk about self-love or loving our neighbors the same way we love ourselves is neither a feeling nor an emotion. True love cannot be measured by how good we feel but by its capacity for faithfulness and how well it expresses itself for the good of the recipient. On the other hand, true love is about the recognition that all creation is good and our creator, God, has created all of us as part of His grand plan for the good of His creation.
To define true love, otherwise known as Agape love, I will say it is the determination to know our roles within God’s grand plan, and to do our possible best to enhance our life or that of someone else for the purpose of fulfilling that role. It is about faith, it is about commitment, and it is about action. It is also about giving; it is about caring; it is about extending a hand of fellowship for your own betterment, for the betterment of your neighbor, and for the glory of God. To love oneself, therefore, we must strive to know what our roles are within God’s plan and then we must make the efforts to do our best in preparing our hearts, our souls, and our bodies to diligently fulfill that role, giving all it takes as we are able. Self-love is having the confidence that I am who God says I am and working as hard as possible, with God’s grace, to live and walk in it. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV). As we do this, we must also do it with heart, soul, and body. All these parts of our being must be ready and willing for us to love fully. This is in line with the word of God that says, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5 KJV).
The importance of self-love cannot be overstated. The word of God says, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39 KJV). This is saying we must treat others the same way we will treat ourselves. If I am the type who does not see any good in myself, it will be hard for me to see any good in others. If I do not know or understand God’s purpose for me, it will be a stretch for me to know or understand God’s purpose for other people. If I do not know or understand what to do to improve myself or to be in line with God’s will for me, it is far-fetched to think that I will know what others should do to improve themselves so they can be in line with God’s will for them. If I am the type who will always take actions that are destructive for my life, what kind of love would I be able to show to other people?
As mentioned before, what we often engage in, which can be considered as self-indulgence or debauchery, is not self-love. The feeling of ‘I am better than my neighbor’ is not self-love; the need for attention that indicates a level of self-importance is not love. Overpampering of oneself just because we can, is not self-love. To be clear, the idea here is not to say that you should not pamper yourself, but that this action should not be mistaken as self-love. Loving myself is to know myself, understand myself, care for myself body soul and mind, and work as hard as possible to be an agent of growth for myself so I can fulfill the calling of my faith. We must also let the word of God in 1 Corinthians 13 be part of our guide when it comes to loving oneself. Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, do not dishonor yourself, do not be easily angered with yourself, do not keep records of your own wrong doing, always seek the truth, and be sure to protect yourself, be hopeful, and persevere. That is what is means to love yourself. Now, can you find it in your heart to do that for your neighbors too?
– January 31, 2021
– Pastor Simbo Odunaiya