It is the week of love, but I can’t help but look at love a little differently this week, because ultimately how we love ourselves ultimately is how we love others! This one is a little long, because it’s a little involved, but I think it’s SO IMPORTANT for the healthy of all of our relationships!
Matthew 22:34-40 says, “When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
If you look closely at what Jesus says here, Jesus states that if we love God with all that we are, simultaneously we will also love others as well as we love ourselves. Now some of you might be saying, okay, but we’re supposed to love God first and foremost. Well, yes and no. We are, but at the end of the day, if you’re loving God with all that you are, you can’t NOT love others and you can’t NOT love yourself. See, God is your biggest fan. God is absolutely for you. In John 10:10 Jesus says this about why He came, “The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I came that you might have life and life to the full.”
As followers of Christ we live in this tension of knowing that in this life we will be persecuted, and are called to take up Jesus’ cross and suffer with Christ. But here’s what I think. I think this world is so full of suffering and evil because of the work of our enemy, that we don’t have to seek the suffering, or pain, or burdens. They just come because we still live in this in between time of Jesus going to heaven and yet, coming back again one day. See Jesus said, “cast your burdens on me.” The life that we are intended to live is one that is FULL! Full of joy, peace, patience, love, passion, generosity, kindness. FULL!
If you look closely at Matthew 22, Jesus says, “love your neighbors as you love yourself.” Jesus obviously doesn’t mean be prideful or boastful or put yourself above others. Clearly, there’s too much in the Bible about NOT doing those things that we know that’s not what Jesus was talking about. How many know this one all too well, “pride comes before the fall?” 🙂 (Prov. 16:18)
But what Jesus was referring to is the fact that if we love God with all that we are, we will love others as we love ourselves. Which means, not only do we need to be intentional about our relationships with God and others, but it also means that we need to be intentional about our relationship with ourselves. Relationships are what?
The dictionary defines relationship as this, “a connection, association or involvement.”
Believe it or not, you do have a relationship with yourself. 🙂 Obviously you have a connection, association and involvement with yourself. 🙂 You really can’t not be a in a relationship with yourself. 🙂
Throughout the Bible, there are countless reasons why we need to love ourselves, but I think there are 3 that really stick out as being the most foundational truths about why we need to love ourselves.
See, the truth is God created each and everyone of us BECAUSE He loves us.
God loves us unconditionally with a love that literally sent His one and only Son to the cross SO THAT we could spend eternity with Him in heaven. God is deeply, passionately in love with each and every person in this room. Remember when Moses was describing creation and how everything was good and then when Adam and Eve were created, they were VERY GOOD! They were God’s greatest delight. And we continue to be God’s greatest delight. This might be seriously stretching some of you, but let me ask you a few questions: Do you believe that daily we are to be more like Jesus? Do you believe Jesus is God? Do you believe God loves you unconditionally? If you answered yes to all of those, this means that if we are following in Jesus’ footsteps we will also will love ourselves unconditionally. Many of you might be thinking, “I love myself. I like to hang out with me.” 🙂 Yes, but do you love yourself unconditionally, like God does??
Here’s an example of what I mean by that. At some point in my life, I realized how incredibly impatient I was with myself. I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I would get angry and frustrated with myself over the dumbest things like spilling something in the kitchen (where if anything should be spilled, it’s in the kitchen!) or being late for something, or forgetting something. The standards that I held myself to were beyond perfection. It was as if I believed that, well that I was Jesus and I should be perfect. 🙂 I would literally beat myself up over ridiculous things. As a kid, I was grounded maybe once or twice because my parents knew that I was hard on myself as it was and they didn’t really need to do anything to punish me.
One day, I woke up to this reality. So, over time, I began to forgive myself when I would make mistakes (and even laugh at myself for ridiculous things I would do). I started becoming much more patient with myself and began to leave room for me to make mistakes. The amazing thing was, as I did this with myself, I began to see how my treatment of other’s changed as well. Naturally, I became a much more forgiving person, I became much more patient of others (and God for that matter). 🙂
The this is, the way we love ourselves is the way we love others. See, Jesus says, “love others as you love yourself.” Our relationships with ourselves is so intricately intertwined that it is impossible for us to love others any differently than we love ourselves.
Here’s a litmus test to see if you treat yourself with the same kind of love that God treats you with. “Do you ever say anything about yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else?” Now you might think it about someone else, but you wouldn’t actually say it out loud. 🙂 How many of you have ever said some of these things to yourself, “you are so ugly, ugh, I hate the way you look, I hate your hair, I hate your thighs, I hate how short you are, I hate how dumb you are, I hate how forgetful you are, I hate how you’re never on time, I hate how fat you are, I hate how stupid you are…”
You are God’s favorite part of creation. God would NEVER say anything of these things about you. God longs for us to follow in His footsteps for us to love ourselves the way He loves us.
See, the truth is that God has your best interest in mind, always.
God is your biggest cheerleader!! God is always for you! God is the one rooting for you on the sides lines. God’s got the biggest cow bell and is ringing it for you all the time! There isn’t a fiber in God’s being that is against you. [Hold up the Bible] This whole book was written and inspired by a Creator that is so for us that He wants us to know how to make the most life-giving decisions in this life. Now that doesn’t mean that God loves every decision we make, and we actually can make God rather upset with us, but it’s because God has our best interest in mind! And unless we also have our own best interest in mind (and again, I’m not talking selfishness), we will continually fall short of God’s best for us because we are choosing to settle for less than what God has for us.
Remember early on, when the disciples were following Jesus, and when Jesus told them that He’d make them fishers of people, not fish? Well, right after Jesus died, what did the disciples do? They went back to fishing on their boats. That wasn’t at all what God had in mind for them. God had much bigger plans for them! But that’s all they could see themselves as. They were totally disappointed about the events around Jesus’ death, so they went back to what was comfortable. And really, they settled. After Jesus was raised to life, He went and found them fishing and had to redirect them to what they had really been called to do: set the world on fire, figuratively of course.
How do we know when we are settling for less in our own lives? Do you ever say to yourself something like this, “well, that’s good enough. It’s not exactly what I was hoping for, but it’ll do. Meh, it’s fine. You know, I was hoping for something more like this, but well, God is in control and maybe this less than desirable thing is what He has for me, so I should just accept it and be thankful and not expect anything else.” And all the while on the inside, you’re completely disappointed and not the least bit excited or happy about what is in front of you.
When Jesus was talking to the crowd one day, He asked them this, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11) God is the God of the best, not mediocre. But so many of us settle for mediocre thinking it’s from God because it kind of seems like it might be the answer to a prayer. God knows we get one life to live here on earth. Do you think God wastes that on mediocre? No.
You know, this holiday season, I needed to take a seasonal job for supplemental income. One Thursday, I went to the Mall of America and checked in with a few stores that were hiring and that I thought I might enjoy working at, and by that Saturday I had a job at a store that could not have been a better fit for me! Now, was I excited that I needed to get some part-time work? Not especially. But even in the midst of a less than desirable situation, God still provided me with the absolute BEST!
If there are areas in you life, especially important areas like relationships, finances, health, etc. that feel like they just keep falling of short of your expectations and desires, see if you are the one settling for less than the best because I guarantee you, it’s not God. 🙂
The truth is, if you are a Christian, then you are a temple of the Holy Spirit.
God’s Spirit literally lives in side of you. Now tell me that isn’t reason enough to love yourself in the same way that God loves you. You are literally housing God’s Spirit within you. So, how is your temple? You know you only get one, right? God loves us unconditionally, meaning He can never love us any more or any less than He does now or ever. And God forgives us until AFTER the cows come home. But we only get one chance at this life on earth. One shot.
There’s a phrase going around today, “YOLO.” You Only Live Once. For a lot of people, they’re making this THE reason to gorge themselves on some of the best food, beer and wine this world has to offer. They’re gorging themselves on having sex with as many people as possible. They’re gorging themselves on watching as many movies and as much tv as possible. They’re gorging themselves on putting as much stuff on their credit cards as possible. They are flat-out gorging themselves, because, well, hey, YOLO, we only live once.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of YOLO, I think, “what choices can I make so that I don’t cut my days on earth short?” See, I want to carry the Spirit of God that lives inside of me for as long as I possibly can and there is enough going against me in this world as it is, that I’d rather focus on the things that create the best environment for this temple to flourish: eating and drinking the things that are the best for my body, making sure my muscles and bones are as healthy as possible, making sure I’m doing everything I can to keep my heart healthy. Essentially, treating my body like it’s a temple, because it is and it’s the only one I’m going to get.
How many know this is true, “The better the car, the better the fuel you need to make it run as designed?” Right? Well my friends, this body you got, is more valuable than any car on the market. What kind of fuel are you putting in it?
There may be many reasons why some of you have a very difficult time loving and caring for yourself and having a healthy relationship with yourself. Maybe you’ve never been told you’re worthy of the best and only the best. Maybe you are overwhelmed by shame and guilt of the things you’ve said or done. Maybe you just can’t quite forgive yourself that one bad choice. Maybe you’ve been abused all your life and that’s the only way you know how to treat yourself.
The truth is your Creator and Maker longs for you to love yourself the way that He loves you because everything is life hangs on how we love God, love others and love ourselves.
Let me remind you of what God’s love looks like. While you read this, think about what this would look like if you loved yourself in the same way.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”