The greatest love of all
is easy to achievelearning to love yourselfis the greatest love of all. -- Whitney Houston, 1986
Gospel singer ... and false gospel singer
If you don’t love yourself in a healthy way, you will never be able to love others in the way that you should. -- Joel Osteen, 2012
For people will be lovers of self ... Avoid such people.Raise your hand if you've heard a preacher, conference speaker, author, blogger, etc. say that when the Bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, it implies we must first love ourselves. I see that hand ... Amen, sir, thank you ... God bless you, ma'am ... I see that hand ...
-- The Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:2, 5)
Okay, now put your hands down and turn in your Bible to the place where we are actually commanded to love ourselves.
What, no hands? I'll give you a hint ... it's not in there.
Now, if you're looking for the places where Christ tells us to deny ourselves or hate our own lives, you'll find those. This is because our basic problem is not with low self-esteem, but rather that we esteem ourselves too much at the expense of our Lord and our neighbors. And self-esteem is a pathway to nowhere.
Now, follow me here. I'm NOT saying we need to be filled with self-loathing. What I am saying is that we need to get over ourselves! As long as we are consumed with ourselves, we are not filled with the Holy Spirit, nor are we filled with love for God or compassion for our neighbors. Self-love is Satan's favorite kind.
It is not learning to love or forgive or accept myself that leads to joy and peace, it is living in the light of God's amazing love and obeying Christ's great commandments: love the Lord, love my neighbor. Scripture consistently presents self-regard as a primary obstacle to these supreme imperatives.
I remember when Whitney Houston re-released "The Greatest Love of All" in 1986. The song was a huge hit and reached #1 on both the pop and adult contemporary charts. More than that, it became something of an ode to self-esteem and self-actualization; an anthem justifying and celebrating our culture's obsession with the self. Sadly, Ms. Houston's own short, spectacular and tragic life serves as a vivid testimony to the barrenness of self-love as a life-orienting force.
Earlier this month I engaged in a stimulating conversation with Dr. Deb about the topic of self-forgiveness. My basic thesis was that self-forgiveness is an unbiblical concept having its roots in popular psychology rather than in Scripture. I put a rather sharp point on it:
The bottom line is this: the concept of self-forgiveness is not Biblical, but secular-humanist at its core, because it idolizes the self. If I have the power to condemn or forgive myself, then God is irrelevant to my salvation. Self-forgiveness is not merely unnecessary and redundant; it is foolish, delusional, and self-idolatry.The errors of self-forgiveness and self-love are not merely misguided, they are cruel. They obscure the truth that genuine, meaningful, powerful, life-changing love, forgiveness, acceptance, etc. are available to us when we follow Christ in the self-denying, self-sacrificial way He prescribes. Self-love and self-forgiveness are the world's empty shadows of the true love and transformational forgiveness that come from the perfect Lover of my soul.
The world chases these shadows because they are cost-free. They get what they pay for.
Of course, for the world to invent worldly doctrines is hardly newsworthy. For the church to embrace these doctrines and cover them with a Christian veneer, however, is heretical and deeply corrosive. We rob the Gospel of Jesus Christ of its power when we slather it in trendy, worldly psychology.
When we attempt to synthesize the world's bankrupt philosophies with the richness of Christ's gospel, we may ask the memory of Whitney Houston--whose first #1 hit celebrated adultery, but who also styled herself a gospel singer--where that leads us.
This discussion is not merely semantic, it is basic. The church needs to reclaim the Biblical language, so that we can start talking again about Biblical truth. This means rejecting the false gospel of self-love--which, thank God, is absolutely not "The Greatest Love of All"!