The Implications of Believing There’s a Command to Love Yourself

So I recently put “a command to love yourself” into a search engine to see what I’d get… I’m not sure why, but I was kinda surprised at the litany of stuff actually arguing for the idea.

However, I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the American Dream has always – in one way or another – encouraged the love of self. In fact, much of contemporary “Christianity” today focuses on a “you are worth so much” chant that logically leads its teachers to follow this chant with a teaching that will keep listeners satisfied and “in the club,” so to speak.I’ve primarily heard the “love yourself” teaching twisted out of the Scriptures by Joyce Meyer (I’m pretty sure it’s actually her primary “teaching” platform), however, I’ve heard plenty of similar teaching – if in more veiled language – from many other sources.

One article I found online is a good example of this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/loving-yourself-the-biblical-command-we-tend-to-forget/

You will notice, however, that the author uses no Scripture (aside from the half quotation of “love your neighbor as yourself”) to back up their claims that to “love yourself” is even an idea in the imperative of the command. Now, there are professing Christians that will try to go to passages about “abundant life” and such and try to twist their base ideas into something that will work with their teaching on Matthew 22:39... But as I’ve tried to briefly point out in my last post, I do not believe the whole testimony of Scriture would even come close to substantiating such a claim.

Besides that, no matter how much “Christianese” you use, the logical end of such and argument is self-love and/or self-worship as a prime goal in life. It also diminishes a person’s ability to rightly judge their own sinfulness by inserting a third category of responsibility that the Bible does not teach.

I thought this article was a perfect example of the logical end to such a false message: https://bayart.org/2016/08/22/how-to-fall-in-love-with-yourself/

Anyone who can read such self absorbed advice and not cringe or have red flags go off in their brain has a lot to learn about what the Bible says about mankind, God, and the character and worth of Christ.

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A Command to Love Yourself?

    “You can’t love others well until you love yourself.”

    I’ve heard the phrase (or at least something like it) used as a starting point for a self-help message by a “preacher” on tv and seen it plastered on pictures online… The tv personality (and most of the professing Christians that I have heard/seen use the phrase) supposedly got the idea from Mathew 22:39.

    “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (HCSB)

    I’m sure you noted that the first half of the verse indicates that this is a “second” following something before it. I’m also sure you noted that the primary factor in this verse is “your neighbor” not “yourself.”

    But let’s back up a moment and get some context – in the 22nd chapter of Matthew, Jesus finishes a long string of parables and deals with several “test questions” brought to Him by the Pharisees and Sadducees (taxes and resurrection respectively), and then comes the following passage.

     But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 

    Here Jesus has quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 for the greatest, most defining commandment from God, and then He summarizes the whole of the Law with His added “second commandment.”

    If you go back and read Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and even Numbers, you get a much better sense of what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like, than if you just have the self-esteem toting, “you are special and deserve to be loved,” material success focused societal lense of our day.

    Jesus’ statement even taken by itself cannot come close to being interpreted as meaning anything along the lines of “here Jesus has acknowledged the truth that if you don’t like yourself you’ll be an angry and unhappy, and therefore unloving person. Because if you can’t even accept yourself for who you are and stop being critical of yourself, you’ll never be able to love people.” No. The context of the statement and its relation to the Law of God make the treatment of your neighbor the primary and only subject in that sentence. No person listening to Jesus at the time would have inserted anything about their “self feelings” into what was being taught.

    Inserting the “importance of good self-esteem” concept into the statement also becomes impossible in light of Jesus’ direct teachings on the subject of “self.”

    Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. ~ Matthew 16:24-27


    “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ~ Luke 14:26-35 (ESV)

    These passages obviously indicate that the disciple is to be marked first and foremost by self-denial and self-sacrifice. And I believe this is further attested to by the way the epistles echo Jesus’ summary of the “Law and Prophets.”

    For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  ~ Romans 13:9-10

    Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ~ James 2:5-17 (ESV)

    No mention of how you feel about “you” except to point out hypocrisy or self-deception.

    In fact, I would submit to the reader that something of an opposite perspective is being taken by Jesus (and His Apostles) – that being something like this: “you already love yourself so much that you should be treating others as good as you treat yourself.”

    NOTE: Something of the idea in Ephesians 5:29 comes to mind as a Scriptural phraseology for what I’ve suggested above.

    You see, human beings are so selfish that even in the case of those who are suicidal and/or “hateful” of themselves in one way or another, they are still so focused on themselves that they are literally loving/worshiping themselves over anyone else. Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, 3:23, Jeremiah 17:9, etc…

    To paraphrase several great preachers; we don’t need more/better self-esteem or to learn to love/accept/be happy with ourselves – we need to repent of our selfish selfcenteredness and evil, and to hold God in high esteem and love Him to the utter forgetfulness of ourselves so that the only thing left for our consideration is how best to obey His commands.

    Some Thoughts on Fatherhood…


    I read an article early this morning that got me thinking about something that I’ve kinda looked at off and on since finding out my wife and I were going to have a child. (this is the article: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/do-christian-parents-flirt-with-the-idol-of-safety — I found it very thought-provoking and would encourage anyone to take the time to read it and think on the topic)

    Primarily, what I’m referring to is this: ever since starting to tell people that I was going to be (or, technically and essentially, already was) a father, I have at random gotten questions like “are you nervous?” “got the jitters yet?” and other such questions along those lines. I have usually responded to such questions with some form of a shrug or mumbled answer because I am well aware of how abrasive I can be when I answer questions with blunt honesty – especially when the answer has to do with my preference/opinion and/or my understanding of the Bible’s instruction about something (which is, of course, almost always the case)

    Anyway, that to preface the fact that the article above caused me to look at my thoughts and emotions on being a dad and what I ‘want for my child’ in the light of what God desires and demands of me…

    So here is one of the places my brain went, I have never really responded to the “are you nervous?” questions because they translate in my head as “are you worried/afraid?” (because I view ‘nervousness’ as just another expression of anxiety and/or fear) – and my gut response to that question is an emphatic “No, of course not, why would I be?” Here’s why: 1 John 4:18, Philippians 4:4-7, Matthew 6:25-34, and there are a plethora of other passages that have developed my conviction, but these are sufficient for sharing my thought.

    (NOTE: I just did a ‘word search’ on blueletterbible.org for “love fear” and I found it very interesting the passages that were given to me)

    I don’t wish to be offensive to those who have asked me questions like this, which is why I have found it so difficult to give the simple, 8-word response above, because I know I would have immediately followed it with something like “why would a Christian even ask me that?” Because, and this is what’s weird, the unbelievers I interact with have never asked anything of the kind (as far as I can recall – and it’s pretty easy to do so because I can remember all of the occasions on which and by whom I was asked these questions because they were so odd to me)… And the other thing I have found so bizarre, is that my wife never gets these types of questions, they have always been directed at me as the dad – as if fatherhood were scarier than motherhood (which puts a woman in an extremely close brush with death, at least in the process of giving birth).

    But to continue, I have not once, to my honest self-examining recollection felt what might be categorized as even ‘concern’ in any of my thoughts about being a father before or since becoming one. And I primarily thank God for that because it is only by His gracious work in my heart in helping me to trust and love Him that such a thing is possible. But I also look at how He did that in the way He has helped me to view things. And I will list those things as such:
    1) Ultimately, as with my wife, my daughter is not really mine to begin with; she is God’s first and foremost – I have merely been granted the privilege of caregiver to her. Matthew 6:25-34
    2) My love for my child is not dependent on anything, and this is how that love can keep me from ever feeling any form of worry or fear about anything that would involve her. 1 John 4:18
    3) God is ready to listen to me and help me with any concerns or needs that might develop over time, and thus I can trust Him for today, and have no need to think (except within reasonable bounds of good stewardship/servant-hood) about the future. Philippians 4:4-7

    And I believe these to be appropriate and natural applications to life that any Christian could make with the broader parts of the concepts being taught in these portions of Scripture…

    Obviously, if I were trying to teach these concepts to a group of people, I’d include a lot more Scripture and go off on several other very necessary ‘side-tracks’ – but at this point I am merely sharing my thoughts for those who might find them interesting and/or helpful… So if you’ve gotten to this point, thank you for reading, and I pray the LORD has blessed you in doing so)

    Only by His grace – in Christ,

    ~ J D White

    Originally written as a G+ post on 2/15/2016

    “War Room” & Satan

    PART TWO

    Keeping along the lines of the Name of Jesus and the proper ways to address and relate to God, I’ll now address the many “prayers,” if you will, that were addressed to Satan in the War Room.

    …Yes, I did just say that prayers were offered to Satan in War Room – in fact, I would argue that nearly 40% of the actual “prayers” in the film are addressed to the devil. (NOTE: “prayer” in the sense of “talking to an invisible spirit-being”)

    After the Name of Jesus is finally introduced into the film as a way to get what you want, Clara begins to hammer into Elizabeth about how ‘the devil is the real enemy.’ (after a brief outlining of the Gospel – which is utterly ruined by Miss Clara then ‘preaching’ about the Power of Satan) … Side NOTE: Satan is NOT the “thief” who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10)- the context does not in anyway imply that Jesus would have us think of the devil when we quote that passage.

    So, to summarize, we have a massively over emphasized – if not overdeveloped – demonology presented to us just after a brief, outline of the Gospel, which all follows on the heels of finally introducing Jesus as a magic-word formula.

    But it gets weirder. After this the first prayer we actually hear from the lips of Elizabeth is in beseeching God to stop her husband from committing the physical act of adultery(her husband has clearly been shown to be an adulterer-at-heart already in the film). This is followed by her reading a few verses on her wall, ending with James 4:7 – repeating and emphasizing the line “resist the devil, and he will flee.” At which point she gets up and walks through her house talking/”praying” to the devil – a practice that is nowhere taught in Scripture. The passage from James is primarily about repentance and the devil is referenced as a “tempter” not some enemy that is out to “steal your joy, kill your faith, and destroy your family.” The moment you resist temptation and refuse to sin, you have “resisted” and are un-influenceable by demons.

    NOTE: 1: Satan is not omnipresent, and thus is incapable of being in more than one place – and with the mess Elizabeth and her family got themselves into, I highly doubt they’d be worth his time. 2: Elizabeth makes a silly statement by telling the devil to ‘go back to hell’ after her rant against him – the Bible nowhere suggests hell is a realm from/over which Satan rules.

    After this, one of the only four “prayers” we are actually “in on” is that of Miss Clara after she hears the news of Tony’s repentance. Her response is a brief statement of thanks and then she moves immediately into talking to the devil! Telling him he “got his butt whooped” as if he could hear her or had anything to do with the situation, or (heaven forbid) it wasn’t already a guaranty that he would be beaten in the first place… And then she shuffles off camera singing some sort of old gospel song.

    My chief concern here – and I’ll wrap it up with this – is that Satan is nowhere in Scripture ascribed as the Christian’s primary enemy (if there is such a thing). To suggest that is the case (that he is in any way ultimately responsible for Tony’s sin), downplays the utter evil and rebelliousness of mankind’s own sinfulness – which is presented regularly and often as man’s primary problem in the Bible.

    FINAL NOTE: Because I decided to only address the two subjects that I have, I thought I’d share a few articles that I thought had some good points on the film: http://justinpeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/War-Room-Review.docx

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/august-web-only/who-does-screenwriter-say-that-i-am.html & http://www.thewrap.com/critics-destroy-war-room-7-worst-reviews-crushing-christian-drama/ <on these ones I’m just offering some food for thought as to the “negative” responses that people might not have heard unless they went looking for them… I don’t agree with every aspect of every article (but it should go without saying that I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything I share 😉

    ”War Room” & the Name of Jesus

    PART ONE

    Let me start by saying that I have very much enjoyed many of the films the Kendrick brothers have produced in the past. I have appreciated their God glorifying emphasis and careful, balanced presentation of Biblical concepts and the Gospel (particularly in Fireproof).

    However, I must admit that the things I am addressing about their most recent film have caused me to come to a rather strong opinion: I hope that either they get to work on a new movie to make up for the heresy/unbalanced half-truth spewing, disaster of a film that is War Room, or they stop making “Christian” themed movies altogether.

    Why is that?

    Well, let’s start with one of the primary problems with the movie, War Roomthe use of Jesus’ Name.

    Ignoring the fact that “Miss Clara” basically establishes that “Elizabeth” is a “Christian” in name only upon their first encounter(and subsequently ignores that fact and starts to “teach her to pray” anyway), there is absolutely no specific mention of Jesus in their conversation; just vague references to “the Lord.” Now, this would be okay if they did not persist in every encounter to only refer to this nameless “Lord” & “God” for nearly half an hour into the film until we find them on the way to their car after having spent time at a park. It is at this point that one of the most offensive things in the film takes place.

    Once they enter a parking garage a man jumps out from behind a car and brandishes a knife, demanding their money. Elizabeth tries to calm the man down as she reaches for her purse, but Miss Clara takes on this strange (somewhat hypnotic) stare and says: “no, you put that knife down… In the name of Jesus!” At which the man pauses, Miss Clara continues her disconcerting stare, and the man runs off – or that is at least what is implied in the sudden change of scene.

    Why is this offensive? For the same reason any blasphemy or “taking of the LORD’s name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 & Deuteronomy 5:11) is offensive: it mocks the Name of our glorious Savior by misusing it.

    Although we have a plethora of examples(primarily in Acts) of disciples(primarily the Apostles) “commanding” things in the name of Jesus, the only actual teaching we have on the disciple’s privilege of calling on the Name of the Son comes from Jesus himself(John 14-16). And – if not for the accounts in Acts – the passages given us from Jesus’ teaching on the subject would imply that only in making a request(I.e. Asking) of the Father in the Name of Jesus is what He is referring to. Never once does Jesus imply that His followers are to demand anything in His name, let alone use His name to bark orders at other people. (Mathew 21 {Matthew 20:255-28, Mark 10:42-45, Matthew  5:38-48}, James 4)

    Now, the “Pentecostal” / “charismatic” / “Word of Faith” types will instantly be jumping on the topic of demons: “aren’t the disciples given authority over demons in the gospels and the apostles command demons in Acts?” This is true, disciples of Jesus have the privilege of commanding the flight of demons(that are possessing individuals) by calling on His Name. But where is it implied that this extends to other human beings? And where did one of the Apostles use Jesus’ Name to keep possession of their own material objects or to protect themselves from physical harm? I ask those questions and the phrase “turn the other cheek” comes to mind.

    To keep from going too long on the topic: to hear someone irreverently use the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as if it were some magic catch-phrase to keep you from getting hurt or lose some material possession should offend any God fearing disciple of Jesus.

    Now, some may be offended by my statements up to this point. May I ask you to pause and consider why that may be? Do you not care about the Glory of Christ? Do you not care that the Father is worthy of praise and honor in His holiness? Because I do, and that is why this scene offended me…

    Am I accusing anyone of not caring about those thing if they don’t agree with me? No. But I would ask that they think about this topic deeply, because the way you think about the privilege of prayer and calling upon the name of God will effect the way you think about God and yourself – and thus the way you live out your life…

    Voting…

    … It accomplishes nothing of meaningful, lasting value – at least it does not anymore – as far as the moral/ethical, religious person in the U.S. today is concerned. Our country and government are set up in such a way as to give the majority (or the loudest minority, as it seems to have turned to in some cases) what they want. Obviously there are lots of complicated details that could be gone into on that point about whether it actually works that way, but my point is; there are not enough Christians in this country to legitimately call it a “Christian nation.” If there were, the nation would not be the way it is now.

    Anyway, to reword what I stated above, no matter how much legislation is voted for, no matter how many appeals are signed and sent to the governors that succeed in getting a result, eventually the evil, God-hating majority in this country will find a way to destroy and or get around those legislations (just as they have done for the last half century).

    What this country needs is NOT a “Godly president” – though that would be nice especially where it regards foreign policy – what it needs is a Gospel preaching Church that goes out to the highways and byways to proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That teaches the Glory and Worth of God and his righteous wrath against evil, rebellious mankind. And that pray for the conversion of hearts for the glory and pleasure of God, as they (the Church) love and serve God by feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans, and preaching repentance to every man, woman, and child they encounter.

    Now, do not take me the wrong way; I believe the majority of the Church is already doing this (and has been doing this all along). And I know and believe God is being glorified in their efforts and is drawing people to Himself through them.

    I am throwing this out there because too much of the “face” of “American Christianity” is not the True Church. All of these people who are only political activists and care more about their economy and power (I.e. The same silly Trump agenda of “we aren’t winning, they’re laughing at us, they don’t respect us, they’re stealing our jobs, etc.) than they do the glory and honor of God.

    In short and closing: no, I will not vote for a bigoted, rude, immoral, unethical, flip-flopping, and greedy narcissist. And no, I will not vote for an irreverent, apathetic, careless, immoral, unethical, and two-faced liar. There is no “lesser evil” to choose from among Clinton and Trump.

    I will continue to pray for the country I live in and strive to serve and love God better and more regularly and consistently share the Gospel and the glory of God with those I encounter. And I will pray for the Church, the Bride of Christ, that she continue to proclaim her wonderful Savior, and persevere in the midst of trial and tribulation (as she has always done), and I will pray in particular for the disciples of Jesus in the U.S. who are going to soon experience the real kind of persecution that they have been spared from for nearly two hundred years.

    May God get for Himself the praise, honor, and glory that He is worthy of in the days to come, and may Christ receive the fullness of the reward for which He died.

    Amen.