Other-centered love is based in self-love

Reflections_feetI brought up the paradox of individually being members of one another last time. Here’s another paradox that goes along with that: other-centered love is based in self-love.

I was asked a question about this at our Men’s Bible group that I think makes for a good discussion here.

We were talking about the idea that God was really only getting at one thing throughout all of Scripture. And if we knew and followed this one thing, we would not only know the essence of all theology but would also be obeying Jesus completely. (I covered this more thoroughly in my post, “The Law of Christ: Other-centered love.“) Jesus states this core theme of all Scripture here (emphasis added):

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt.22:37-40 NIV)

So, this was the question that was brought up in our men’s group.

“How do I show other-centered love by loving others like I love myself? Isn’t that a contradiction?”

This, of course, was based on this part of Jesus’ statement:

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

It was a valid question. After all, isn’t self-love the opposite of other-centered love? Well…it certainly can be…but this isn’t what Jesus is getting at.

Think of this self-love as a reflection of God’s love.

Mountain_ReflectionWe love others with a self-love that’s defined by God’s unconditional love for us. We see ourselves the way God sees us, receiving His affection for us, then reflecting that same love toward others.

Conversely, if we’ve been taught to hate ourselves, either through negative life experiences or bad theology, we’ll probably hate others the same way, too.

Now consider how God expresses His love for you and me in the following passages (emphasis added):

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (John 15:9 NKJV)

How much does the Father love Jesus? A lot? (Can we say, tilt!) That’s exactly how much Jesus loves you. Or, how about this one…

23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 NKJV)

Jesus is saying here that the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Again, how much does the Father love Jesus?

Receiving God’s other-centered love also speaks of value. We value ourselves exactly the same way God values us….

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

The “world” here is you and me. This means that we have the SAME value as Jesus to the Father. After all, He paid Jesus for us! The question is, how much does the Father value Jesus?

Do you see it yet?

This self-love we’re to abide in is based in God’s assessment of us, not in our assessment of ourselves. This love begins and ends with God.

10 This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. 11 Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another. (1 John 4:10-11 GNT)

19 We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19 GNT)

God_Is_LoveWe can only love God with all our heart, soul, and mind with His love. We must first learn how to receive His love, and learn how to love by being loved.

All of theology and obedience to Christ is centered in love because God is love. But it’s also the promise and fruit of participating in this Divine Dance with Love. To know God is to know love; to know love is be loved completely, unconditionally, which leads to loving others with the same love.

Conclusion: Other-centered, self-giving love comes from a healthy self-love that sees ourselves exactly the same way God sees us.

We love so because we are so loved!

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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4 Responses to Other-centered love is based in self-love

  1. AfroScot says:

    One has to be able to love himself/herself before freely loving others. Hence, the commandment, love thy neighbour as thyself.

    This is only possible if we see ourselves the way God sees us. We are of so much value that He sent Jesus to come and free us from the bondage of sin and live inside of us. What a glorious gospel!

    Thanks Mel for the article.

  2. Lance says:

    Here is a fun one to think about…
    God is love. Paul’s said God holds all things together. He also said Christ is all in all. Christ is the divine expression of othercentered love in human form. If we strip away the facades, the pretend, the false ego identities, our worldly perspectives, what’s left? Just love. Love is all in all and holds all things together. Ultimate reality is we are love at our core. So when I don’t love another I’m not being my true self and instead projecting a false self form of self hatred. Yeah, paradox abound. Thanks Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s about it, Lance. We prove that we still don’t get it when we don’t love (which is the subject of my next post). At the very center of everything, down to the little vibrating strings at the smallest quantum level, is Love.

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