Loving the Person in the Mirror
Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:25-30
No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. Ephesians 5:29
TODAY’S VOCABULARY word: Narcissism. Can you pick the correct definition from the three choices below?
a. a plant with smooth leaves and white, yellow, or orange flowers
b. a new religion practiced by devoted narks
c. excessive interest in one’s own appearance, importance, abilities, etc.
If you picked c, you either know your Greek mythology or you’re a good guesser.
Narcissism describes someone in love with himself. A lot of people think that’s what Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:39 are all about: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Wait a minute!” some people always say. “That’s not right. We’re not supposed to love ourselves. The Bible commands us to deny self and take up our cross. Jesus said if I love my life, I will lose it. It’s like that acrostic J-O-Y: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Self-love is narcissism—right up there with pride and conceit, things we are to avoid.”
Wrong. Proper self-love is right for at least three big biblical reasons.
First, it’s right to love ourselves because we are made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26). We love others for the same reason-particularly people who seem lovable for no other reason. An unborn fetus, a seriously brain-damaged person, an unrepentant mass murderer, or a dying AIDS patient might not seem to contribute much to society. But we don’t love people because of what they can give us; we love them because God made them. We love ourselves for the same reason-even when we don’t feel like we are worth loving.
Second, it’s right to love ourselves because self-love is the basis for loving others. Had Jesus said, “Love others instead of loving yourself,” we might agree that any kind of self-love is wrong. Rather, it’s as if Jesus said, “You already love yourself, and doing that properly is good. Now love others the same way.”
Third, it’s right to love ourselves because God loves us (see 1 John 4: 10). If we don’t love ourselves, then we don’t love what God loves.
The Christian’s most basic earthly love obligation is to care for himself or herself. It’s normal and necessary for believers to nourish themselves to maturity mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially, and to protect themselves from harm. And that loving regard for ourselves shows us how to love others.
REFLECT: How do you feel about yourself today? Do you love and accept yourself in a healthy way, or do you have trouble with this concept?
PRAY: Talk to God about ways you can learn to love yourself as he loves you.