Towards an Ethic of Self-Love (Part 2 of a 2 Part Series)

self esteem 3To view the first post in this two part series head over to: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/towards-an-ethic-of-self-love-part-1-of-a-2-part-series/?preview=true&preview_id=2003.  The following is a poem I recently wrote on the theme of Self-Love:

How easy is it

To read the words of Scripture

To attempt to pour truths over our own lives

To vibrantly, passionately live in Christ,

All the while

Allowing stones to choke our lives?

Dispassionately connected

From the very One who breathes into our frame

Dishonestly cheating ourselves of the true peace that lives there.

Slaves to the three minute culture.

Slaves to the very statements of consumerism that cheat us of true, lasting love.

It’s like we’re in solitary confinement

All the while being surrounded by people.

It’s like Japanese water torture

But instead of unsteady drips

We are forced to listen to the vile tape inside our minds

Poisoning us from the true love that could flow

IF ONLY WE LET IT.

We wonder where God is in this mess.

Why doesn’t He care?

Does He even listen?

But have we ever thought,

Truly taken a moment to ponder

That God is speaking to us,

But we won’t listen?

We pray for miracles

And then brush off the birth of a new child,

The dignified letting go of a brave soul who fought cancer for years,

The courage a teenager shows to say no to drugs and yes to life.

Relegating courage to the sidelines,

We elevate Esther, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King

All the while ignoring the courage of single mothers,

Women who were abused but continue to press on,

And the homeless man down the street.

We ask God to love us,

We demand from our pulpits to love our friends,

And even our enemies.

But we forget to love ourselves.

Abusing our bodies,

Pushing them past their limits,

Denying them sleep,

And why?

All in the name of so-called love of another.

Abusing our minds,

Abusing our spirits,

Playing the victim.

Convincing ourselves that the injustices of the world fall squarely on our shoulders

Rather than equally sharing the burden.

Abusing our very souls,

With notions that mar God’s good intentions.

That we are ugly instead of creatively crafted,

That we are stupid or deficient,

Instead of uniquely gifted.

That we are unworthy of love and the affection of others,

Instead of selfishly loved by the Creator Himself.

How selfish can we be?

Pretending to die to self,

Only so that we can justify living for ourselves?

Forgetting to love ourselves only so that we can selfishly love others.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves.

It’s so easy to do the first part, but to ignore the latter.

Choosing to deny self-care is the most selfish, distasteful, and unethical thing we can do.

For it is only in loving ourselves that we find strength to love others.

That we find the courage to be fully loved and accepted by God.

It is only in loving ourselves that we love what is right and just.

Only then does it become easy for us to read the pages of Scripture

As a defined love letter delicately passed to us.

And it is only then

That God will speak to us,

Because we will have chosen to listen.

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3 thoughts on “Towards an Ethic of Self-Love (Part 2 of a 2 Part Series)

  1. ‘ . . . A prime example of this worldly confusion concerns self-love. We have been told that this is a command rather than a condition. The Zeitgeist blew notions of this our way from the lips of popular psychologists and legions of their disciples.2 Suddenly, many Christians saw something in Scripture that no previous generation had seen. (Perhaps those saints who preceded us did not have enough sand in their eyes.) Soon, preachers in the pulpit and on the radio extolled the virtues of self-love. In fact, many said that Christ commanded it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
    ‘But if we love God with all our heart, this supposition that there is a commandment to love ourselves will not ring true. And we find no such interpretation in standard commentaries. Only one command stands here: Love your neighbor. How? “. . . equally with oneself.”3
    ‘This command recognizes that we live to our own self-interest. As Pascal noted, “The nature of self-love and of this human Ego is to love self only and consider self only.”4
    ‘. . . The lawyer who quoted the commandment to Jesus understood this; so much so that he wanted to get around it. He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
    ‘Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan, who found an injured man left by the roadside by robbers. While the religious leaders passed by, the despised Samaritan compassionately responded to the man’s condition, bandaging his wounds and paying for his further care at an inn. Jesus’ final words to the lawyer were not some twentieth-century tripe about self-love; they were “go and do likewise” (v. 37). ‘ http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/love-basics-heresies-divorce-homosexuality-church/

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your responses on this post. I appreciate your insights. I agree with you that self-love should not consume us to the level of not caring about others. However, if you read my post you will see that I am teaching the exact opposite. I am teaching that we love ourselves in order to further help others in need. What I mean is this: self-care in ministry is a huge passion of mine and has often been neglected by the church. After taking a seminary course on this topic and doing my own research I now see how so many people sacrifice themselves and their families in the name of service and then burn out as fast as they came in. It is no wonder then that the majority of people who began their career as pastors leave their career doing something else. I believe that you are also right that self-love is not the most important command in the Bible….but I think that it is something we need to pay close attention to. The truth is, we will never be “good” enough. Only God is “good enough.” On the other hand, ignoring our own needs and running ourselves ragged will only lead to depression, stress, anxiety, and tension. I am advocating that as we read the Scriptures we allow Christ to write us a personal love letter – to help us love ourselves better in order that we will find the strength to love others…but ultimately that love will only flow from the Father, not from self-help books.

  2. Lastly, I just want to add one other thought: I am currently doing my MDiv degree after completing a BRE and a Certificate in Theological Studies & Peace Studies. Eventually I aim to pursue my PhD. I generally have a sharp knack for identifying the Scriptures in context; however, one thing that anyone in the academy must learn is that there are times when we need to apply the hermenutic rhetoric of a passage, and at other times we simply need to let the Bible speak to us. When we become preoccupied with trying to find the correct word in Greek and Hebrew (as important as that is) we can often lose sight to what God is saying to us in the here and now of the text. How it applies to our lives today.

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