This week we’ve been learning about the first quality in the Galatians 5 list called “The Fruit of the Spirit.” That first quality is love. But there is a roadblock to love, and the roadblock can be deep within us.
There is a story in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus said that the two greatest commands in the Bible are “Love God” and “Love others…as yourself”, think about that second one.
How can you love others if you don’t love yourself?
What is a healthy love of self? In asking that question it could seem like we’re entering dangerous territory. What I mean is that we don’t want to become self-important, self-righteous, egotistical. Where’s the balance?
We are not to have self-hatred. Have you ever had thoughts like this: “I’m worthless, I don’t deserve anything, I hate myself.”?
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor, as yourself” so there is a sense in which it is okay to love yourself. But why should we love ourselves? God loves us. If he love us, we can follow suit and have a healthy love of self.
Further, being made in the image of God, we see he has created us, given us importance, dignity. We can love ourselves because God loves us. So remember who you are to him and in him.
Lastly, the Scripture tells us we are the temple of Holy Spirit, which means God lives in us, which shows how he feels about us. If God the Spirit lives in us, then he loves us, and we can have a healthy attitude about ourselves as well.
So what does a healthy love of self look like? It means that your value is found in who you are in Christ. Your identity is not found in a vocation, in how much money you have, in what other people think of you. Instead it is being thankful for life, for the good the bad the ugly in our lives, being secure in God’s love for us, no matter what life brings our way. In 2 Peter 1, Peter writes that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. That means we can be secure in who God created us to be, in his love for us, so that when life gets difficult or people mistreat us, we can always go back to the bedrock knowledge that God loves us.
This doesn’t mean that life won’t hurt sometimes. God’s love for us doesn’t mean that we will always experience a pleasant feeling or the ease of life. But we can know, no matter what we are going through, that God loves us.
As a result of God’s love for us, we express healthy love of ourselves by taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally. Healthy eating, exercise, sleep. Since our bodies are the temple of God, this is important for us and for him.
Practice the principle of Sabbath rest. It is right and good for us to make regular time for rest, recharging, worship, family, relaxation, celebration, to be grateful to God for his blessings. In that sense, practicing sabbath is not a 24 hour period each week, but a principle we can apply in our own way, and we can see it as a gift from God to us.
God wants us to know that we can be filled with his love, so that we have a healthy sense of love for ourselves, and then we can share his love with others.
How, then, are you growing God’s love in your life love?
In addition to the word agape, the Greeks had another word for love, and we find out about that in the next post.