I have been trying to conclude our “Love God” series for four weeks now but every time I do, God, to borrow a famous line from “The God Father Part III,” movie:
“Just when I was out he pulls me back in.”
To qualify: I love this series and the more I pray about it, study it, and learn from it, the more it transforms me. However, this series is very challenging isn’t it? I mean, loving God first and with all, and our neighbors, which we saw last week was anyone in need at any time, shows me just how imperfect my love is and that I am a long-range love project.
I call the Great Commandment the “Love Trifecta” whereas we love God first, neighbors second, and self, third. How many do you know that we are most fulfilled and happy when we keep to this love priority? But what about loving self? It’s a command so it’s not optional, especially if we want eternal life. But for some, it may be the most difficult aspect of the love trifecta. Afterall, it’s a lot easier just to love God. Look at how loving he is! For many, it’s easier to love others, especially if you come from a loving family and are generally a kind and compassionate person. However, the only way we can be healthy: spiritually, emotionally, and relationally speaking, is if we love ourselves. Moreover, we can only love God, the way he deserves and love others, the way they need, if we love ourselves the way God wants us to. However, loving self is as beautiful as it is difficult so here’s a few reasons why we need to do it.
God loves himself. No, we are not going to find a direct scripture where God says, “Hey, I love myself.” However, God’s love for himself is implied and inferred throughout the Bible. God is the Maximal Being and therefore the healthiest, emotionally and interpersonally speaking. Plus, according to I John 4:8, “God IS love” and as such loves everyone including himself. Could God be the source of all love if he didn’t love himself? As the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” declares, God is “Perfect In Power, Love, and Purity.”
We see that God loves himself in the interplay between the Father, Son, and HS. Jesus said numerous times, “The Father loves me” (Matthew 5:20, John 3:35, John 15:9). Concordantly, he told his disciples that one of his primary reasons for going to the Cross was that the “World will know that I love my Father” (John 14:31). The Holy Spirit is first and foremost the “Spirit of Love” who loves both the Father and Son even as the Father and Son love him. Together the Trinity represents the original community of mutual, reciprocal, life-giving love. Now if we are made in God’s image as rational, spiritual, and volitional beings, and if God loves himself then shouldn’t we love ourselves? The answer is obvious, not only because the GC commands it but so does Jesus in Matthew 5:48
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The word translated for “perfect” here is the from the Greek telios. It doesn’t mean to be flawless or sinless as our heavenly Father. That’s impossible. In the Matthew 5 context it does mean to be “mature” or “complete” in love. “Be mature and complete in love even as your heavenly Father is mature and complete in love” is what Jesus is saying (impartiality is the most mature aspect of love). From this passage John Wesley constantly asked the People Called Methodist, “Are you being perfected in love?” Can we be mature and complete in love if we don’t love ourselves? And everyone said, “No Way Hosea!”
The 2nd reason to love self is because God loves you (and I’m trying lol). Out of his self-love God loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, proactively, and eternally. Now I know the focus of our series is to love God but we couldn’t do this unless he “First loved us” (I John 4:19). We all know John 3:16, “For God so love the world he gave us Jesus.” As incomprehensible as his love is however, it is not to be taken generally or vaguely but specifically and personally. God loves you even if you alone were the only person in the universe.
God loves you in that he uniquely created YOU. God loves you in that he dances over YOU and delights in YOU! YOU are his beloved and as such nothing above the world, nothing on the world, and nothing under the world can separate YOU from his love (Romans 8:31-35). And when we love Jesus we get even more of God’s love, if that’s possible. Listen to what Jesus says in John 14:21,
The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them…
Now that’s a whole lotta love! I love that my wife and family love me, at least a little bit. I love that my friends, even the unpaid ones, love me. I love that you love me as well even if it’s poketo. But when I think that God, for all that he is, is all in, in his love for me, then I must give it the old college try when it comes to loving myself.
#3 God Pours his Love Into You
We need to love ourselves because God loves himself. We need to love ourselves because God loves us. Lastly, we need to love ourselves because God pours his love into us. If we are Christ followers today, then we have Niagara Falls of divine love cascading into our hearts. Listen to John 17:26 and Romans 5:5
I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
“To pour” in Romans 5:5 is a perfect passive indicative verb. It indicates that God, through his HS has poured, and continually pours, his divine love into us. It’s not a one-time fill-up (gas tank analogy)! When people ask me, “How can I love people who annoy me” I usually go one better, “You best do way better than that and love your enemies, the unlovable, your neighbors and everyone else.” I then say, “We can’t love anyone unless we first allow God to fill our hearts with his love.” How then can we love ourselves? The same way: ask God to pour firehoses worth of love into our hearts until they overflow with love for self.
Conclusion: Self-Love Blocks
Before Charles comes for a few minutes to talk about how to remove “Love Blocks” I want to share something personal. I grew up in a family that was devastated by alcoholism. My sister and I suffered all the syndromes associated with that addiction. Therefore, the only love we ever experienced was conditional, transactional, and performance based. The worst of all loves! Although I have been a devoted Christ follower since I was a kid, I have always struggled with God’s love for me and consequentially, self-love. Now this struggle is not a theological or biblical. I always believed, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” It is, however, an emotional one. The devil knows this of course, and as such, is always trying to get me to doubt (and everyone else) two fundamental things: (1) God’s love and (2) My identity as a beloved child of God. To combat this demonic work, I have often prayed, “God I want to feel your love even when I’m not doing anything.” You know what he’s been telling me lately? “I love you whether you feel it or not. However you will feel my love more when you love yourself more.” Charles please come now and share.