Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”Mark 12:29-31, CSB
It seems like lately my social media news-feeds have been filled with memes and articles and posts all about “self-love” and “self-care”. They run the gamut from statements like “self-love is true self-care” to lists about why “you are enough.” These clever quotes and pretty pictures circulate among all of social media so often that they have become ubiquitous, and we don’t remember a time when the terms “self-love” and “self-care” weren’t in our everyday vocabulary.
As with anything popular culture throws our way, Christians are responsible for taking these messages back to the Word of God and discerning if they are truly biblical or not. Just because a quote sounds good or makes us feel good does not mean it is True or within God’s will for us. So let’s consider these popular messages in light of Scripture.
When asked by the scribes what the most important commandments were, Jesus made it very simple: love God with all that you are and love your neighbor as yourself. When the scribe agreed with Jesus, he was told “you are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). This gives us a very clear “formula” for living a life in line with what Jesus taught.
Loving God completely + loving others as yourself = nearness to the Kingdom of God
You’ll notice that “love yourself first” is not a part of this equation. There is an implication that we naturally love ourselves as God commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The fact is, many of us find it easier to be kind and compassionate to others than to show that same kindness to ourselves. I believe that’s because we’ve skipped over the first part of the equation. When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you experience an all-encompassing devotion to Him. Your mind is focused on Him and what He says. Your energy goes first toward knowing and obeying Him. Your emotions and total being rest in Him when you practice this devotion. We have the full support of God Almighty when we trust in Him, commit our ways to Him, rest in Him and delight in Him. If that is how we live, we are not destroyed by anxiety, depression, low-self esteem, fear or trauma. We may still experience those things, definitely. But they will not overtake us. And when they feel overwhelming, that’s when we need our community of believers.
God never asks us to do this life alone. He gives us Himself and He gives us our neighbors. When one of our people is struggling, we are called to love them by carrying their burdens with them. We need God, and we need each other. You are absolutely not enough on your own, without the Lord and without the community of His people. A life devoted to God, loving him with all of our soul and mind, obeying Him out of that devotion is the way of live and blessing. A life focused on ourselves leads to death and adversity. True “self-love” is not love of ourselves at all; it comes out of a deep love of God and love of others.
May it be our prayer to to practice “self-love” God’s way, by loving Him absolutely and bearing one another’s burdens.
Deeper Walk Scripture: Galatians 6:2, Psalm 37:3-17