Jewish Lords' Witness

Love Yourself

Self-Love

Introduction

This paper has its roots in a comment that Gordon, the LW President, made to me recently. He confirmed to me a Christian’s second greatest commandment, which is rooted in the Law and re-iterated several times throughout the gospels and the epistles:

39 And the second [is] like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [Lev. 19:18] (Matthew 22 GLT)

31 And [the] second [is] like this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is not another commandment greater than these. [Lev. 19:18] (Mark 12 GLT)

8 If you truly fulfill [the] royal Law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. [Lev. 19:18] (James 2 GLT)

9 For, "Do not commit adultery," "do not murder," "do not steal," do not bear false witness, "do not lust," [Ex. 20:13-15, 17] and if [there is] any other commandment, in this word it is summed up, in the [words], "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [Lev. 19:18] (Romans 13 GLT)

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I [am] Jehovah. (Leviticus 19 GLT)

In reminding me of this, he pointed out that if you do not love yourself then you have no basis upon which to love others. In my own mind, this is like a doctor’s first responsibility being to look after his own health and well-being. If he does not, then he will not be in the right condition to treat and tend to his patients.

Another way of considering this concept of self-love is to be found in an earlier chapter of the gospel of Matthew. Here Jesus is telling us to do unto others what we would have them do to us. Again, this would implicitly require a sense of self-love which we share with our brothers:

12 Therefore, all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, so also you should do to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7 GLT)

So, once again we are on the search for what the Good Book can tell us about this subject, bearing in mind that self-love also potentially comes with the risk of losing a balanced perspective. Self-love can easily turn into narcissism which is not a good state of mind for the narcissist or his neighbours.
 

The Good

In the Introduction we quoted the second commandment. Let us now have a look at the first commandment and the implications of this to the current thesis:

4 Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God [is] one Jehovah.
5 And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6 GLT)

37 And Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." [Deut. 6:5]
38 This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22 GLT)

29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments [is]: "Hear, Israel. [The] Lord our God is one Lord,
30 and you shall love [the] Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul" and with all your mind, "and with all your strength." This is the first commandment. [Deut. 6:4, 5] (Mark 12 GLT)

So here we are being told that to love God is the greatest of all commandments. In this context, let us now look at this verse from Paul’s letter to the congregation at Colossus:

10 and having put on the new, having been renewed in full knowledge according to [the] image of the [One] creating him, (Colossians 3 GLT)

Here, Paul is telling us that a born-again Christian will be taking on the image of God who he loves. This then must mean that this one will, by very definition, love who he has become even if he did not do so prior to gaining his faith. In the same vein, if we love God and God is in us as believers, then how can we not also love ourselves:

16 And we have known and have believed the love which God has in us. God is love, and the one abiding in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4 GLT)

To continue our quest, I can think of no better scripture than that stating that a husband should love his wife as himself and to compare this to the Lord loving His church. So it would seem that, in this respect, we should follow the Lord’s example, so He must also love the Church as He loves Himself:

28
So, husbands ought to love their wives as their [own] bodies, (he loving his wife loves himself),
29 for then no one hated his [own] flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as also the Lord the church.
30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
31 "For this, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh." [Gen. 2:24]
32 The mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ and as to the church.
33 However, you also, everyone, let each love his wife as himself, and the wife, that she give deference to the husband. (Ephesians 5 GLT)

Interestingly, this scripture talks about a man loving his own body. One might have expected that one’s spirit or soul would have been referred to in this context. So, as I have always believed, we were created as physical beings for a purpose, that purpose being to love the flesh, not just the spirit. I think that our bodies are God’s second greatest gift to mankind as the wonderful vehicles to house our spirits (our greatest gift of life).   

David would certainly seem to have appreciated God’s creation of his physical being whilst still in his mother’s womb:

13 For thou didst form my inward parts: Thou didst cover me in my mother's womb.
14 I will give thanks unto thee; For I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My frame was not hidden from thee, When I was made in secret, [And] curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance; And in thy book they were all written, [Even] the days that were ordained [for me], When as yet there was none of them. (Psalms 139 ASV)


Solomon saw that our seeking out God’s wisdom (ref.
Wisdom) demonstrates our own self-love of spirit and body in that we wish to add to our life more of God’s blessings:

8 He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good. (Proverbs 19 KJV)

As in all other respects, the New Covenant of faith in Christ turns the physical symbolism of the Old Testament into the spiritual:

10 for we are [His] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2 GLT)

In loving Christ, we also come to love ourselves, in that we see Christ in ourselves as if in a mirror:

18 But we all with [our] face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of [the] Lord in a mirror, are being changed [into] the same image from glory to glory, as from [the] Lord Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3 GLT)

If God loves us as His sons through Jesus Christ, who are we not to love ourselves for that:

3 Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies with Christ,
4 even as He elected us in Him before [the] foundation of [the] world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love,
5 predestinating us to adoption through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to [the] praise of [the] glory of His grace in which He favored us in the [One] having been loved, (Ephesians 1 GLT)

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which [was] toward me has not been without fruit, but I labored more abundantly than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (1 Corinthians 15 GLT)

Thereby to love ourselves in body and spirit:

19 Or do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of [the] Holy Spirit in you, which you have from God, and you are not of yourselves?
20 You were bought with a price; then glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are of God. (1 Corinthians 6 GLT)

In following Christ’s example of self-love, we must strive to put the bounds on it that He did in declaring His own heart to be meek and humble. Yes, in loving ourselves, we must place our self-love into the right context amongst our brothers:

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am meek and lowly in heart, "and you will find rest to your souls." [Jer. 6:16] (Matthew 11 GLT)

Christ tells us that one who loves his fleshly being will lose it if he does not give it back freely to partake of the spiritual life to come. Therefore, to truly love yourself, one must strive for the life to come rather than that which we already have in the flesh:

25 For whoever may desire to save his life will lose it. But whoever may lose his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16 GLT)

In Paul’s letter to the congregation at Philippi, whilst he implores his audience to care for the things of others, these are to be cared for as well as the things of their own, thereby emphasising the start point for this piece of research:

4 each not looking at the things of themselves, but each also [the] things of others. (Philippians 2 GLT)

His first letter to the congregation at Corinth puts the emphasis the other way round in requiring them to put others first. Perhaps the difference in emphasis is due to his perception of the different behaviours in the two congregations:

24 Let no man seek his own, but [each] his neighbor's [good]. (1 Corinthians 10 ASV)

If Christ puts a high value on His Saints, then should we all not value ourselves accordingly:

7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12 KJV)

To seek glory for oneself by doing good works, thereby attaining an indefinitely lasting life, must certainly be a sign that one loves one’s own life be it current and/or prospective: 

6 who will render to every man according to his works:
7 to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: (Romans 2 ASV)

However, we are reminded, ultimately, that the faithful are who they are due to God’s grace and a product of His workmanship. So, we should love who we have become due to God’s good graces towards us. It is as if we should love ourselves since God clearly loves us:

8 For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God;
9 not of works, that not anyone should boast;
10 for we are [His] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2 GLT)

We need to acknowledge that our own true glory comes only from God:

7 On God [is] my salvation and my glory; my strong rock, my refuge [is] in God. (Psalms 62 GLT)

So the net of this is that if we do not love ourselves, we do not love God's creation so we cannot love God or our fellow men.
 

The Bad

So here is the warning for those narcissists among us. Clearly in loving ourselves, this has to be within the bounds set by God to remain right-minded:

3 For through the grace which is given to me, I say to everyone being among you, not to have high thoughts beyond what is right to think. But set your mind to be right-minded, even as God divided a measure of faith to each. (Romans 12 GLT)

12 For we dare not rank or compare ourselves with some of those commending themselves, but they measuring themselves among themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, [are] not perceptive.
13 But we will not boast beyond measure, but according to measure of the rule which the God of measure distributed to us, to reach even to you. (2 Corinthians 10 GLT)

3 For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
4 But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor. (Galatians 6 ASV)

As stated in the Introduction self-love, like all of God’s blessings, can also be polluted and made into a basis for sin. Paul’s  second letter to Timothy warns of this becoming evident in the end-times:

2 For men will be lovers of themselves, money-lovers, braggarts, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (2 Timothy 3 GLT)

I think it might be worth the reader’s while to visit my
Vanity paper in this context.

There is also a little irony in John’s gospel when he suggests that one’s loving their own lives will lose it but here, I think, John is referring to love of the life of this world rather than one’s own inner being:

25 The [one] who loves his life loses it, and the [one] who hates his life in this world will keep it to everlasting life. (John 12 GLT)

We must also remember the sins of mankind destroyed by God for their trouble in past millenia. Whilst self-love seems to be a necessary requirement of our faith in Christ and Jehovah, we must always remember to worship the Creator not the created thing, i.e. in this context, our own souls:

25 who changed the truth of God into the lie, and worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1 GLT)
 

The Ugly

Now in comparison with David’s earlier statement of love of his physical being as created by God, we also find a less than perfect human aspect of his birth. He considers that the human action related to his conception to be sinful, but that God helps him to keep his spirit righteous.

I have to say that I do have a little problem with this. The act of procreation was designed by God so I would argue that it cannot, of itself, be sinful. The creation of a new human soul through a loving act between a husband and his wife I would consider to be a wonderful God-given gift. However, there is no doubt that outside of this environment, procreation is fraught with sinful intent.

Anyway, notwithstanding any of these considerations, I think David, in these verses, is extending his self-love to his soul by including his spirit not just his physical being:

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden [parts] You teach me wisdom. (Psalms 51 GLT)


 

Synopsis


  1. If we do not love ourselves, we do not love God's creation so we cannot love God or our fellow men.
  2. Self-love needs to be regulated through faith in Jesus Christ to prevent it becoming vain or narcissistic.


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