Self-love Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Self-love

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Self-love is, in Christian perspective, an ambiguous term. It might refer to healthy benevolence toward oneself, or it might refer to conceit.

In Scripture

In the image of God "Then God said, `Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth'" (Gen. 1:26).

Crowned with glory and honor "O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet" (Ps. 8:1 - 6).

Keep your heart "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:23).

Deny yourself "Then Jesus told his disciples, `If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it'" (Matt. 16:24 - 25).

Love God and your neighbor "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 greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matt. 22:37 - 39).

Christ died for us "But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Christ lives in me "[I]t is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).

Distressing times "[I]n the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy" (2 Tim. 3:1 - 2).

Points to Ponder

Jesus assumes that we love ourselves In Matthew 22, Jesus assumes that we love ourselves and offers no criticism. The idea in neighbor love is to wish your neighbor well, as you do yourself. Do good things to your neighbor as you do to yourself. You wouldn't slander yourself; don't slander your neighbor either. You shouldn't lie to yourself; don't lie to your neighbor either. You wouldn't fail to feed yourself, so feed your hungry neighbor too. In general, we don't seek our own good from (so to speak) ulterior motives. We naturally seek what's good for ourselves or, at minimum, what we think is good for ourselves. And Jesus summons us to approach our neighbor in the same natural style.

Human beings are paragons Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 teach us that human beings are paragons within the world: We bear God's own image. Respect for ourselves, care of ourselves, good will toward ourselves are all appropriate recognitions of our God-given status. Even our sinful selves — the selves we need to deny, starve, drown, wholly reject — are worthy enough that Christ died for them. No familiarity with this theme can erase its mouth-opening astonishment.

Conceit In 2 Timothy, self-love appears in a vice list. This signals that now we are talking not about healthy benevolence toward oneself, but about conceit. Conceit is exaggerated self-regard, a vice we detest in others but sometimes warmly nurture in ourselves. Conceit is idolatry and an excellent example of folly, given that it is destructive of intimacy and fellowship, spiritually suffocating, and finally futile (the more self-absorbed we are, the less there is to find absorbing). In a monologue Al Franken says, "Look, a lot of you out there are conceited. You admire yourselves way too much. I want you to stop admiring yourselves and start admiring me, Al Franken." When we laugh, it's a laugh of recognition. We've met conceit before — sometimes embarrassingly close to home.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.