By Peter Salemi
Constantly we Christians are told to “love others” and to “give” to others; to sacrifice our lives for others; but what about our own selves? Does this mean we cannot love ourselves as we love others?
Almighty God revealed his laws to Israel at Sinai, and those Laws were to benefit Israel in every aspect of Life.
Relationships between parent and child, neighbors, business, and relations with other nations were all integrated in the laws of God.
God commandments, if practiced, would give the individual good health (spiritual and physical), a great marriage, wealth and prosperity. The laws of God basically give you everything you really want. Is that not love towards the self?
When God tells us “You shall not commit adultery,” this commandment benefits you! The evils of committing adultery can break down your relationship with your spouse, your children, with others related to you that your life becomes complete chaos. God gives us these commandments for our good, “that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut 30:19). This self-love is not the self-love that the world promotes. That kind of love only leads to destruction and sorrow. The world basically teaches “if it feels good do it,” and “as long as you’re happy” then go and do as you please. No, God’s ways are for your benefit, of long life complete fulfillment in every aspect of your life.
Does this mean we should forget about others? Absolutely not! When a certain lawyer approached him about obtaining eternal life the bible says, “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
“He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
“And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
“And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28).
Self-love-respect and affection for the self-God’s way is allowed in the Bible, but the catch is, you also Love “thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ’s teaching is, that the way to express love toward others was to consider first how one treats the self. Do we deliberately cause ourselves pain and suffering? Do we drink poison or eat ground glass in a balanced state of mind? Do we not feed the self, pamper the self, entertain the self, and keep the self-warm and clothed? If we cut ourselves do we not take steps to stop the bleeding and ease the pain? God’s laws that we apply to make us healthy and happy, we should also be willing also to do the same for our neighbors. We do not steal from them, or commit adultery, murder, lie and cheat. If we are not willing to do those things to ourselves, we should not do it to others. We should try to make others feel as comfortable, loved and cared for as we make ourselves feel.
We should sense the same needs in others that we find in ourselves-and seek to fill them. This is loving others as we love ourselves!
The Bible states, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:” (Psalm 19:7). The consistence message of the Bible is to repent! To stop the evil of our ways and turn to the ways of God. This is for our benefit, not just to be saved, and but also to physically saved our lives from the bondage of sin. To set us free from sin, and to live full abundant lives, as John says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, [physically] even as thy soul prospereth [spiritually]” (3John 1:2).
Love is in fact a four-step process. John wrote, “We love him [God], because he first loved us” (I John 4: 19). (Paul expounded the same principle in Romans 5:6-10.) Before man can express love toward God, God must first express His own limitless love toward that individual.
Accordingly, the path of perfect love must grow by stages: God first loves us, individually, by calling us to His truth. Then we love God in return, exemplified by the submissive acts of repentance and baptism. After receiving God’s Holy Spirit, we love ourselves, because our source of self-hate (our sins) has been removed. Finally, we are free to work toward loving others as ourselves.
The command to “love thyself,” therefore, is not an act you can perform in a vacuum. God must be in the picture. He must first work individually with you, then you must love Him in return. Any attempt to love yourself without these prior steps is doomed to become self-love as the world teaches, a form of vanity.
You can start on the road toward perfect love if you follow the outline Jesus gave in Matthew 22:36-40. Only when you love God (because He first loved you) can you respect yourself. And when you “love thyself,” you can continue that love toward all mankind.