Loving Others, Yourself and the Lord
The key to loving others well isn’t learning to love yourself first. I know, I know. That’s not what you’re hearing from the world right now, but it’s true. As good as it may sound, loving yourself first isn’t the answer.
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like learning to “love yourself first” is constantly being shouted at us through Instagram captions, movie screens, and every self-help book on the shelf. It’s a dangerous mantra that’s gaining a lot of ground because honestly, it just sounds so good. But I’ve spent a lot of time lately reflecting on the idea of learning to love myself first, and every time I try to line it up with Scripture, it just keeps falling short.
So if it’s not true, then why does it sound so good? It sounds true because we are worth loving, but it’s so important for us to know why we are worthy of love. We have worth because we have been made in the image of God, our creator, who loved us when we were dead in our sin and completely unlovable. On our own, we are not enough—but it’s because of God’s love and lavish grace to us in Christ that we are worth loving.
However, loving yourself and knowing that by God’s grace you’re worthy of love are not the same. You don’t need to love yourself first in order to love others well; you need to know how much you’re already loved by your Savior and Maker. God not only believes that you are worth dying for, He loves you so much that He sent His Son to pay the ultimate price for you. Now we love because He loved us first! That means that loving others well starts with God, not us (1 John 4:10, 19).
Love the Lord Your God
The secret to loving well isn’t learning to love yourself first; it’s learning to love God first. According to Jesus, the most important thing is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). When it comes to love, it all starts with the One who is Love. Only when you’ve learned to love Love Himself, then can you do the second most important thing: love others as you love yourself.
While talking with my friend the other day, she said it this way: “I think the whole ‘loving yourself’ concept comes from a point of embracing your uniqueness and who you are, but in order to do that you have to realize where your identity lies and then celebrate who you are in Christ.” And I think she’s so right! So don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t appreciate your uniqueness—you most certainly should! God made you one-of-a-kind and He delights in the woman He made you to be.
But we should be celebrating who we are in Christ rather than simply celebrating ourselves! When you love God first, you can embrace and enjoy the woman He has made you to be, but when you focus on loving yourself first, pride will sneak in and tell you that you’re self-made, not God-made. Celebrating who God made you to be should never be an excuse for idolizing yourself!
This also applies to self-care. Neglecting our own physical and emotional health can hinder our ability to love and care for others, including the ones that we love most. So by all means, sister, rest and work out and say no when you’re overwhelmed. Those are good things! What I am saying, however, is that self-care is not the same as self-love or self-indulgence. Practicing self-care is about honoring to the Lord because you are His temple. Practicing self-love, on the other hand, is about making yourself number one—and it’s impossible to love sacrificially when our own comfort is the priority. Ultimately, self-care isn’t an excuse for selfish living.
Love and Sacrifice
In the end, the world’s definition of love is missing one really important thing: sacrifice. Culture says you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself first, but that kind of put-yourself-first love is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. God’s definition of love is selfless, not selfish. Jesus didn’t love Himself first when He went to the cross, and as His followers, He has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). That’s a pretty high standard of love. That’s sacrificial love and that’s what we’re called to, sisters.
So if you want to love others well, don’t focus on loving yourself first. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then love others as you have been loved—sacrificially.