It sounds kinda selfish and self-centered on the surface, I know. And if it were, it would surely be a most unattractive trait.
I believe that Christianity is a religion about love– most notably, loving God and loving our neighbors. However, I think we’re too quick to forget to extend the same to someone else the Bible calls us to love: ourselves.
When Jesus said the greatest command was to love God, and that the second greatest was to love others, he added a quantifier. He said, “and love your neighbor as yourself.“
Loving one’s neighbor, according to Jesus, presupposes we love ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but I think the biblical command to love ourselves gets lost in the shuffle of life. Some of the time I think we clothe this neglect of self in a false piety, as if serving others without nurturing ourselves somehow makes us better than others, or somehow makes us more acceptable to God.
Other times, I think it’s simply a matter of neglectfulness– losing yourself in the hustle and bustle of a busy life.
And then there are some of us who are comfortable loving God and others, but just don’t know how to love ourselves.
However, if we were loving God but not loving our neighbor, would we not sound the alarm that something about our faith was out of whack? I certainly hope we would– one cannot love God if they are not loving their neighbor. In the same way, when we love God and our neighbor but are not loving ourselves, we arrive at a faith that is every bit out of synch as when God or neighbor is been left out of the equation.
I was reminded of this truth when doing some personal reading this week. I was reading Morgan Guyton’s new book, How Jesus Saves The World From Us. (You can grab your own copy, here.) In the book, Morgan talks about the choice we have between living by the spirit, or living by the flesh– something he discusses in terms of breath versus meat. When we are breath, we are full of life– but when we are meat (living by the flesh), it’s as if we become something far less than what we were destined to be. He writes:
“Meat is such a perfect metaphor for human life that has become dehumanized, because meat is dead life. Meat is always a once living animal that got killed for the sake of consumption. It’s the reduction of life to a consumable object.”
As I wrestled with this idea of dehumanization and “dead life” that exists for the consumption of others, I couldn’t help but think about the unavoidable result that happens when good and wonderful people forget or neglect to love themselves.
For those so busy loving God and others that they forget to make it a priority to love themselves, it’s only a matter of time before one feels as if their life has been reduced and dehumanized to the point where they are dead life that only exists to be consumed by others.
And when you get to the point where you’re burned out, feel like dead life inside, and are full of resentment that your life exists simply to be consumed by others?
Well, if you’ve ever gotten to that point you know that the world can fall apart quickly, and many good things you’ve done can quickly come undone.
I believe God wants us to do great things with our lives, and to guide us he gave us two commandments. However, when we forget that the second commandment includes self-love and self-care, we are living a life that is less than fully God-honoring.
Let enough time go by, and you’ll feel like dead life that’s being consumed by others.
In order to truly live life the way God intended it, and in order to be fully Christian, we must learn that loving ourselves is every bit as important as loving our neighbors.
In fact, loving yourself is one of the greatest commandments.
I’ll be offering some additional thoughts in a future blog, but I’d love to hear from you: What are some ways you could better love yourself?