“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” Matthew 16:24
“You need to learn to love yourself before you can truly love someone else,” she said as I sat across the table sipping on my coffee. I knew she meant well, but there was something off to me about her statement, but I didn’t know exactly what. I had just ended a toxic relationship, and I longed to be loved and cherished by a God-fearing man, but those dreams seemed to be too good to grasp. As her statement resonated in my heart, I began to reflect on how Biblical principles actually teach the opposite of self-love. The promise, put simply, is the more you look inwardly and love yourself, the more you can love others (your spouse, your family, your friends, etc.) and be at peace. But as appealing as the idea of self-love may sound, this teaching actually falls short of Biblical teachings.
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus’ disciples are called to deny themselves and follow Him. When Christ calls us to Himself, He genuinely loves and embraces us, with all of our sins and shortcomings. But in the same act, we are to hate our sinful nature and to lay it aside (Ephesians 4:22). We are to strive for godliness and holiness through the blood and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. God does not simply want us to achieve a profound sense of self-love; He desires our sanctification here and now, and while doing so, we are to put aside self-glorification and ultimately glorify God.
Christians, to neglect this Biblical truth can leave the regenerate heart feeling even more dissatisfied and confused. True self-love is acceptance of ourselves as redeemed and regenerate people. We are loved and accepted, not because of our own worthiness, but because of Christ’s worthiness in us. Denying ourselves, our sins, our faults, and our inadequacies will help us keep our focus on Jesus and less on ourselves.
Father, forgive me for looking inwardly for acceptance and love when I should be looking to Your promises You so ever graciously have given me in Your Word. I am not the answer to my problems…You are. Help me to love less of myself and my sins and to humbly cling to You, Father. Amen.
If we really cared about loving ourselves and helping others do the same, we would preach the Gospel. Only the good news of Christ can offer true satisfaction and genuine love. Do you love yourself enough to set aside your worldly desires, deny yourself, deny your sins, and follow Christ? Pray God would grant you the grace to see true fulfillment in the One who died for your shortcomings.