Thursday, June 20, 2013

Am I Supposed to Love Myself?

(The following is an excerpt from Slaying Your Giants.)

To love self or not to love self. That is the question. Jesus said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39). He also said, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

These two apparently contradicting verses, both spoken by Jesus, make me wonder, "Should I love me, or love me not? If God loves me, shouldn't I love me?" And here's a bonus question. If Jesus commanded me to love everyone, why does He now tell me to hate?

No, Jesus wasn’t commanding us to despise mom and dad. The biblical word “hate” doesn't always mean to “cease loving.” When Jesus says you must hate your relatives and yourself, He means that you must favor Him above everyone else. Christ wants to lead you, rather than letting anyone else control your life. However, some people wrongly believe they must hate themselves—the very souls Jesus created and died for. If that were true, you should want to go to hell, which would be the ultimate hatred of self. Obviously, that can’t be right. You would be fulfilling Satan’s will, not God’s.

A prison chaplain once told me, “Do you know why those prisoners committed their crimes? It’s because they hate themselves. And if they hate themselves, how can they love others? If they don’t have respect for themselves, why would they respect anyone else and their property? So it doesn’t bother them to steal or kill. They don’t love their neighbors because they don’t love themselves.”

Attaining a healthy self-image requires that you see yourself as God sees you—as a valuable person He created and loves. It’s important to understand that “self” can mean a couple of things. It can mean “the person God created you to be” which is good, or it can mean “having a selfish attitude” which is bad. When Jesus said to hate your own life, He meant to hate selfishness, not the person God created you to be. The Lord wants you to love yourself as His creation and child, but to hate your selfish attitudes.