Thursday, February 14, 2019

Humanity Hates Itself

"Whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death" (Proverbs 8:36).

The Bible commands us to love ourselves when it says, “Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19). The command says as much about self-love as it says about loving others. We might assume that all people love themselves, but the Bible implies that we do not love ourselves at all.

What does it mean to love yourself? Because you are the image of God, to love yourself means to love God. Those who hate God hate themselves for the same reason. Also, because other people are made in God’s image, to love yourself is to love them. This is especially true when it comes to those God has put close to us. Paul writes: “He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28b–29). Of course, those we call “masochists” do hate their own bodies, and in one way or another, everyone outside of Christ hates himself.

The Bible appeals to self-love. Jesus asked, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Here is an exhortation to repent grounded in enlightened self-interest. If we really loved ourselves, we would repent, put our trust in Christ, and save ourselves; but we don’t do that, showing again that we really hate ourselves. Apart from God’s intervening grace, people do not act out of enlightened self-interest.

Humanity’s love of death (Proverbs 8:36) and hatred of itself is concealed in what is perversely called “self-love.” As Christians, we can call this counterfeit self-love “selfish love.” Selfish love is self-centered, quick to resent other people, and grounded in rebellion against God. True self-love, by way of contrast, is grounded in love for God and embraces sacrificial love for other people. God is the Maker of the self, and the obligation to nurture and protect ourselves is a Divine mandate. Apart from God, however, people work to destroy themselves, because they hate the image of God and seek to deface it.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day seems to capitalize on sentiment. True love of one’s self and others, however, flows not from fleeting emotions and feelings but from the love of God. Seek to cultivate that understanding by celebrating that love given and received by the source of all love, God.