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Loving #3

"Who? Love me?!?"

Matthew 22:39


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 Echo.

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 Lexus.

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 own advice.

¨ 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 John 4:6)
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
¨ Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…." (John 15:13)
¨ "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 absolutely awful.

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

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