Saturday, September 5, 2009

Self-Love as A Spiritual Act of Worship

What a busy week this has been in the news! This week we saw the comeback of Whitney Houston and the burial of Michael Jackson (finally!). Both are tragic figures, with both being victims to drugs and bad marriages. I pray that Whitney will finally get her act together and redeem what is left of her life, because it is too late for Michael now. For too long they have both suffered from the ravishes of a life poorly lived, but there is still hope, at least for Whitney.

Why is it that the rich and famous sometimes fall victim to poor lifestyle choices? As we can see, poor lifestyle choices are no respecter of persons and not because one is rich means that one will escape the consequences of such choices. What is it, however, that causes people in general to make poor lifestyle choices? Is it just stupidity or hard-headedness? Or is it more than that? My assessment is that people make poor lifestyle choices because of lack of self-love.

The topic of self-love is a controversial one in Christian circles. When you talk about self-love in Christian circles, people become uneasy as they usually equate self-love with selfishness, and selfishness is a sin. One of the scripture passages used to 'prove' that self-love is a sin is found in Mark 8:34,35:

"And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. "

The call of God is one of self-denial but not one of self-hate. In denying self, one might forgo certain pleasures for the good of others or for the kingdom of God. One may even sacrifice his or her own life for some greater good. This is different from self-hate. Self-hate is a product of low self-worth, and belittling one's value as a human being. Self-hate says, "I am worthless and not deserving of anything good." Self-love says, "I have behaved unworthily and fallen short of God's standard for me, but by God's grace I can attain to all that's good." You see the difference? The self-hating person already has a negative self-image, and even if they are offered redemption, they refuse it because they think it is for someone else, not them. Have you not met people whom you try to show them a better way to live but they refuse thinking it is impossible for them to rise above their circumstances? They give in to their circumstances and try to decrease their hurt by turning to some type of escapist activity such as drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. They never really address their problems. They hope somehow that their problem will go away if they ignore or medicate it. After a while, they become dependent on the very thing which they had turned to in order to escape their problems, and then those things become a problem themselves - and so that person develops new problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, food addictions or aversions, sexual dysfunction, and so on, on top of their other problems.

True and Biblical self-love appreciates the fact that our bodies are God's temple. (1 Corinthians 6:19). As a temple of God we have true value in God's sight, and therefore we are called to walk "worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Ephesians 4:1). We understand that God is to be glorified in our bodies, as our bodies were bought by the life of God's Son. "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthian 6:20). Our spiritual act of worship therefore is to present our bodies as a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). Do you hear that? Giving our bodies over to the control of God is the reasonable service expected of Christians. We are no longer our own, but are now dear children of God, who have now merited eternal rewards and blessings, through the grace of God.

God has placed a value upon you. If He did not value you, He would not have sent His Son to die for your sins. We in turn need to value our lives, especially now that we have been redeemed, and honor God in our bodies, soul, and spirit. We love ourselves and who we are as people, because God first loved us.

So will self-love cause us to be selfish? The answer is no! Healthy self-love recognizes our worth as human beings, and is based upon the love of God for the human race. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). If we realize that Jesus died to redeem sinful mankind and not just a special few, then we will develop love for others, as we recognize their value in God's sight. Therefore, we live by the golden rule which is to treat others the way in which we would like to be treated, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (James 2:8; Leviticus19:18; Matthew 22:39; Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). If we really understand what loving ourselves means, then we will understand what it is to love others. John puts it nicely in his epistle, "Beloved, if God so loved us [me and you], we ought also to love one another[each other]" (1 John 4:11, words in square brackets supplied). Our love for self and others is therefore based upon the fact that God loves us.

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