What Does It Mean to Love Yourself?
I have often wondered this, struggled even, to understand and fully grasp why this is so important.
To me, loving myself always seemed like I was trying to be a self-righteous snob. It never felt right and I never bothered to figure out why it was needed.
My lack of understanding kept me from asking God about it, until recently. I began to pray for God to show me the importance of loving yourself, and what it looks like.
The word of God clearly states in Matthew 22:37-40, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as YOURSELF. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I sat quietly before the Lord and I heard Him say, “Loving yourself should be a mirror image of how I love you”.
We can only begin to love ourselves once we accept the love that God has for us. Often times we make it much harder than it needs to be.
You may have heard before that agape love is about action. It is God’s agape love for us, through His son Jesus, that a decision was made to redeem a sinful world. God had to take an action to save us, it wasn’t just Him saying a warm and fuzzy “I love you!” that would save us from eternal separation. It required sacrificing a perfect sinless son and it was Jesus’ sacrificial agape love for us that kept Him on the cross, not the nails.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8
So what does it mean to love ourselves as Jesus loves us?
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” John 15:9
Abide means to accept without rejection. So when Jesus says, “abide in My love” He is commanding us to accept His love without rejection. Why is accepting Christ’s love so important? Because until I accept His love, my identity is still unstable.
But how can I possibly love what I don’t know?
When I accept God’s love for me and learn to love myself as He does, I begin to understand how much He values me. Not because I’ve earned it, or done everything the perfect or right way. He simply values me because He loves me.
You see God designed us to learn everything (including love) from Him and we get a beautiful picture of this from Jesus’ time on earth. Jesus made time to commune with His Father. Several scriptures speak of this, but one of my favorites is found in the book of Mark.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
He knew the value of communing with His Father. We learn to love and be loved the more we commune (to communicate intimately) with God and the more we center our lives around a relationship with Him.
Relationship was created before the earth, the first was between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And they have a perfect relationship, one bound by love. Jesus’ goal is to teach us how to have a relationship with Him, just like the one He has with His Father, and we are to mirror that with others.
Maturing and pruning our relationship with God takes discipline, time, desire, perseverance, like all our relationships do. But too often we don’t mature and prune in our earthly relationships, so we begin to think we don’t need to do it with God.
Are the relationships we are in, both earthly and heavenly, thriving, or does it all just feel like work? I have been there. Every relationship I was in felt like work, and definitely not rewarding work. Back-breaking, miserable, unhappy work.
If that is my perception about relationships, why would it matter what my relationship with Christ looked like? The lies that we accept and believe begin to distort the perfect love God has for us. I have personally seen the results of complacency verses the fruit of pruning and maturing in my relationships. Producing good fruit takes work, it is painful, excruciatingly humbling, time consuming, but also the most life-giving journey.
The beautiful thing about intimately talking with God on a daily basis is seeing the fruit in all other relationships as well. When I surrendered my will to Christ and became obedient to His word and believed what He said about love, it changed me and still changes me daily.
Jesus spoke of obedience in Matthew when He said, “If you keep my commands you will abide in my love.” The more I obey God I am actively showing Him I love Him and allowing Him to pour more of His love and understanding of His love into me. However, big surprise, I struggle with obedience daily and I tend to want to be judge of which commands are big and small and obey according to importance instead of love.
The problem for me is that I find myself cutting 90% of it out and telling God that I can handle the other 10%. Lack of obedience could be for several reasons, lack of knowledge of God’s word, His commandments, His will for your life, or perhaps inability to hear His voice, pride, selfishness, and anxiety. The list is endless.
My excuses, listed above and many more, were rooted in the lack of knowledge of God’s love for me. I didn’t know the extent of God’s love for me, so how could I possibly trust His love for me? It wasn’t until I watched Him change my heart, my life, and my marriage that my eyes were opened to His love for me…
To be continued…. (Read part 2 here.)
About the Author:
“I am daily overwhelmed by the grace and goodness of God, wife to JJ who has taught me how to love and be loved, a full time Registered Nurse, and mommy to our 4 legged fur baby, Duke.”