"Who? Love me?!?"
In ancient Greek mythology Narcissus was the son of the river God Cephissus.
Narcissus was exceptionally good looking. He was physically beautiful but
incapable of love.
While he loved no one, someone loved him. She longed and yearned for him
but found absolutely no response. He was incapable of responding. He was
incapable of loving. She loved him so much that she slowly disappeared from the
lack of response until all that was left of her was her voice. Her name was
Another mythical character named Nemesis decided to punish Narcissus for his
coldness of heart and enticed him to drink at a certain fountain. When
Narcissus bent over to drink he saw his own reflection and fell in love for the
first time in his life. He was so enthralled with the sight of himself that he
could never leave the reflection. So, the gods transformed him into a flower
that to this day is called the Narcissus.
Narcissism is falling in love with yourself, but it really isn’t love at
all. Some people are truly self-centered, self-absorbed and totally selfish
but they are not lovers. They don’t love others and they really don’t love
themselves either because that’s not what love does. Love is never like that.
Jesus said, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest
commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
Jesus seemed to assume that we love ourselves. At the very least he
taught that self-love was a reality and at the very most he taught that
self-love is a good thing.
Certainly Jesus did not encourage us to be self-centered. To be so full
of ourselves that we don’t have time or interest in anyone else is about as
far from Christianity as anyone could imagine.
So, what does it mean to love me?
I. To acknowledge & honor the image of God
All true love begins with God. God is the first and greatest lover. We
couldn’t even know what love is or does if it were not for God.
The only reason we are capable of loving is because we are all created in the
image of God. That doesn’t mean that we are physically like God—it means
that we are created to think like God, feel like God and choose like God.
Several years ago I was shopping for a new car. Something happened at the
Toyota dealership that I had never experienced before and took a while to figure
out. Charleen and I looked at a Toyota Camry, then the best selling car in
America. We even took it for a test drive. When we returned the car I told the
salesman that it was very nice but that we wanted to shop around and see some
other makes and models. The salesman surprised me by agreeing with the idea of
making comparisons and even suggested that we go over to the Lexus dealership
and check out a new Lexus.
Why would he want me to check out a Lexus? Well, I figured it out. Lexus
and Camry were both made by the same company. There are enormous similarities in
design, workmanship and mechanics. He knew I couldn’t afford a Lexus but when
I compared the cars I would see the Lexus in the Toyota Camry. He was right. I
got the Camry. It was a great car. I really liked it. It was sort of like a
Everyone of us is like God. The image of God is in our design. We are
made with divine craftsmanship. Not that we’re God because we definitely are
not. In fact, everyone of us is a banged up model—but you can still see and
feel the image of God in every one of our souls and lives.
When we love ourselves it is not that we are foolish enough to think that we
invented ourselves or that our worth comes from our invention. It is that we
are like God. What we should love is everything about us that looks like God.
Just as God loves us because we are his children we should love ourselves
because God is our Father.
Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to "love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind." Loving God causes us to love what God loves and God
loves us because he made us to be like him.
II. To do no harm
Romans 13:10 explains that "Love does no harm…." To love
ourselves means to do no harm. That’s what love is always about. Love never
seeks to damage or injure or destroy.
Romans 12:9 explains that "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil;
cling to what is good." True love always seeks to do good for
whoever is loved.
We all see too many people who do themselves harm. These are those who
continually injure their bodies and their souls. The examples are legion:
¨ Physical harm through use of tobacco, alcohol
and drugs. Too little sleep—a growing percentage of Americans are
sleep-deprived and exhausted through almost every day. Lack of exercise. Too
much food. If a parent mistreats a child with drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation
or overwork it is called abuse. Certainly it is not love. Likewise, it is
abusive and unloving to mistreat our bodies. Listen to the Bible:
I Corinthians 6:19-20 "Do you not know that
your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received
from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God
with your body." Love yourself enough to take care of your body.
¨ Damaging relationships also do us harm.
Extra-marital affairs are always unloving even though they claim to be all about
love. They injure the souls of everyone involved. There are all kinds of
relationships that we know harm us but we get into them and stay in them. Bad
business partnerships. Corrupt alliances that cause one another to sin.
Relationships that repeatedly bruise and batter the soul. If anyone else we
loved were in such damaging relationships we would tell them to get out, break
it off and never go there again. We should love ourselves enough to follow our
¨ Spiritual neglect is another expression of
self-harm. Just as some mistreat their bodies and relationships others
mistreat their souls and minds. It is unloving to bombard our inner selves with
evil images, profane words and ungodly thoughts. Just as our bodies are harmed
with toxic chemicals so our souls are harmed with toxic thoughts. Those who love
themselves take care of their souls as much or more than their bodies.
Love yourself as God loves you. Love yourself enough to do no
harm. Dump the sins that have been doing you in. If you’ve been treating
yourself in an unloving way, please decide to change. It may be difficult. It
may take time. But, it is the loving thing to do.
III. To do what is right
Lovers not only do no harm but lovers do what is right. There is more to
love than avoiding evil. Love seeks to do what is good.
II Thessalonians 3:13 "Never tire of doing what is right."
I John 3:10 "This is how we know who the children of God are and
who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a
child of God…."
We all make thousands of decisions every day. Those decisions impact
others but they also impact us. When we do what is right that is good for God,
good for others and good for us.
We live in a world where others often do what is wrong. There are
injustices, abuses, assaults, injuries and worse. It is the reality of life in a
world with sin and evil. However, we may choose to do what is right regardless
of what others choose to do.
"The District" is a new CBS television program that premiered last
week. It is about the newly arrived Police Commissioner for Washington, DC.
He quickly discovers that the city has widespread crime and lots of corruption
in the police department. He decides to seek out the officers who do what is
good and right even when others are doing what is illegal and evil. He
interviews a young African-American man who seems like the kind of police
officer who does good.
The young man is a former Marine. When the Police Commissioner asks him if he
is an honest cop who will always do what is right, the young man answers,
"Yes, Sir. I am a born-again Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as my
Lord and Savior." It was an interesting line for a secular TV program. That
young Christian man was saying, "I do what is right because of God and who
I am." He impressed me as an example of a Christian who loved God and loved
himself in just the way that Jesus had in mind.
If you really care about yourself, do what is right. If you want to
acknowledge and honor the image of God in your life, do what is right. Make the
decisions about what you say, how you feel, what you spend, where you go on the
Internet, how much you give, how you treat other people, the way you keep your
promises - - - make all your decisions on the basis of what is right. Not what
is convenient. Not what is easy. Not what others want you do. Do what is right.
Will this always be easy? I promise that it will not! Around our
house Charleen frequently quotes the words of I Peter 3:6, "…do what
is right and do not give way to fear."
Those who do what is right have self-respect. Those who do what is right
feel good about themselves. Those who do what is right are self-lovers in the
way that Jesus had in mind.
IV. To love myself the way God loves me
What does it mean to love ourselves? It means to acknowledge & honor
the image of God, to do ourselves no harm and to always do what is right. In
other words, treat yourself right. It’s the loving thing to do.
There’s a challenge here. Just talking about loving ourselves comes
with a high risk of misunderstanding.
¨ Some will take this as a license to
self-centeredness. These are the egotists who think the world revolves
around them and are greedy and selfish. Let me say it one more time—that is
not the self-love Jesus commended. To the contrary, this is personal sin that is
inevitably self-destructive and often takes other people down as well.
¨ Some will not love themselves because they don’t
think they are worth loving. These are those who consider themselves
worthless, unimportant, unlovable, failures and losers. They may even hate
themselves. They mistreat their bodies, souls and minds all the time because
that’s what they think they deserve.
¨ Both are sinful and unchristian approaches.
Both deny the image of God. Both do themselves harm. Both do what is wrong
rather than what is right. Please, be neither.
There is a fourth and final description of what it means to love ourselves
that is really the most important of all—it is to love myself the way God
loves me. Rather than look in the reflection like Narcissus or through the
eyes of others as is so commonly done in our modern society, this is to see
ourselves from God’s perspective.
God loves us. God loves you! The Bible says:
¨ "God is love!" (I
¨ "God demonstrates his own love for
us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans
¨ Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than
this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…."
¨ "When the kindness and love of God our
Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but
because of his mercy." (Titus 3:4-5)
¨ "For I am convinced that neither
death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our
Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
God loves us the way a father loves his children. God loves us
passionately and fully. God sees our potential. God forgives our sins. God loves
us so much that he helps us when we don’t deserve any help and disciplines us
when we get out of line. God does whatever he needs to do to make us the way we
were meant to be.
Let us love ourselves the way God loves us. See yourself through God’s
eyes. Love yourself enough to get rid of the bad stuff and get on with the good
stuff. Love yourself enough to never give up. "‘Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is
the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your
neighbor as yourself.’"
Here’s the love question for today: If you loved yourself the way God loves
you, what difference would that make in your life? How would you live and
love yourself differently if you loved like God? Do it—love you as much and
the same way that God loves you!
When I was in the first grade my family moved to a different house in a
different town. It was an old three-story house with years of history. Some
previous owner built a grape arbor in the backyard. I had never seen such a
thing before and could hardly wait for the next year when the first grapes would
grow. One day I could wait no longer so I picked some of the grapes, popped them
into my mouth and just about gagged. I spit them straight out. They were
You can never say, "grapes are grapes" because the differences can
be huge. Likewise, you should never say, "love is love" because
that is simply not true. Some self-love is bitter and makes God and everyone
else ready to spit. But there is a Christian self-love that produces a sweetness
that flows out and blesses every palate.
Galatians 5 describes the contrast between sour grapes and sweet grapes.
It is the difference between those who don’t love themselves like God loves
them and those who do.
Here’s what it looks like for those who don’t love themselves:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality,
impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness,
orgies, and the like."
Here’s what it looks like for those who do love themselves: "The
fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Hear it one more time. God loves you. You love God and love yourself just
as God loves you!
October 14-15, 2000 Wooddale Church
© Leith Anderson 2000