Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Self-Love: No More Violent Emotion

The second is like it, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" (Matt 22:39).

In my field of employment, we talk about loving our neighbor a lot. And rightly so. Yet on this point someone will often smuggle a piece of pyschology they have borrowed from one of our less-than-discerning preachers or from the "Christian Self-Help" - now there's a theological oxymoron for you - section at their local bookseller (that's the one by the potpourri). That is that in order to love others, we must first learn to love ourselves and develop self-esteem.

But read again Jesus' words. He did not say, "You shall love your neighbor as you need to love yourself." He simply added the comparison, "as yourself." It really is astounding when you think about it, especially for us Americans who base our worldview on the pop-presuppositions of Oprah and Dr. Phil... Jesus presumes that we love ourselves. Even more, He presumes that we love ourselves so much that He uses it as the ultimate standard by which all other human love is to be based!

No pyschologist would have fooled Calvin on the depth of self-love presumed by Jesus:
Since men were born in such a state that they are all too much inclined to self-love - and, however much they deviate from truth, they still keep self-love - there was no need of a law that would increase or rather enkindle this already excessive love... Indeed, to express how profoundly we must be inclined to love our neighbors [Lev 19:18], the Lord measured it by the love of ourselves because he had at hand no more violent or stronger emotion than this.

- Institutes, II.8.54 (emphasis added)
The truth is we love ourselves more than anyone, even violently so (cf. Jas 4:1-3). In fact, I am desperate for His grace to so violently love Him and love those made in His image.

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