According to my wordpress stats, I’ve published 666 posts. Therefore, I decided to quickly post something in order to move past this ominous number! (haha)
Here is an excerpt from my book: Positively Powerless, How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity. It is from chapter 7, entitled “A Christian View of Self” in which the topic of self-esteem is discussed and its surprising history (learn more in the book!), and then the chapter presents a biblical view of self.
Thou Shalt Love Yourself?
What about Matthew 22:36-40? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that we must love ourselves before we can love others well? This is a modern misinterpretation. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, and he answered that the first and greatest was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He continued: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Some people directly or indirectly turn this into three commandments: Love God, love others, love yourself. Yet the passage itself emphasizes that it is two commandments, not three. Love God; love others. The verse presupposes that you already have a love for yourself. You clothe yourself, feed yourself, and look out for your own interests. This is natural. Jesus is telling his followers to go and do for others what they already do for themselves. Think of it in a Golden Rule type of way, as Matthew 7:12 states: “do to others what you would have them do to you.” Furthermore, to see a command in Matthew 22:36-40 for an egotistic type of self-love contradicts the whole tenor of the New Testament and essence of Christianity.
Members of God’s kingdom are told to deny themselves, and Jesus further says: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9: 23-24). The Kingdom of God reverses our expectations! In John 12:24 Jesus, referring to his impending death, gives the illustration of a kernel of wheat. The kernel must fall to the ground and die, and it is only then that it produces many seeds. Likewise, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, salvation would be brought to humanity. This was a paradoxical way to save the world–the God of the universe relinquished his power, submitted to his enemies, and allowed himself to die.
Our natural tendency is to save our lives, but when we die to ourselves it gives way to new life in Jesus. I’ve heard it said that we should hide behind the cross. People should see Jesus through us, and we don’t want to obstruct the view. The apostle Paul powerfully states in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We live on as individuals, but Christ now lives in us, and we are to live for him–not ourselves.
Also significant is 2 Timothy 3:1-5’s list of sins that would be prevalent in the later days. Leading the list is that people would be lovers of self. The list concludes by stating people would be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Rather than assuming that Christians would not drift into self-absorption, the New Testament warns us of the very real possibility (and reality) of it. We must continually look to Christ as our example.