If we take His statement recorded in Matt. 22:39 about loving your neighbor as yourself, and couple that with the psychological necessity of loving yourself first, and do not consider anything else, then it is obvious that I am all wet and do not know what I am talking about.
However, let us consider something else that Jesus taught--"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
In the modern world, with its emphasis on self esteem, the concept of self-denial is almost non-existent. It really only shows up when catering to the fleshly appetites finally catches up with the person, and their life is in turmoil. Self-denial is certainly not taught to the growing child, for any indication of disapproval might wound his fragile self-esteem. Therefore, let them do whatever they want as long as they don't hurt anyone.
But, Jesus had a different outlook on life and insight into the human condition. He said that the fulfilled life is one that announces to any who will watch that death is the goal. Anyone seen carrying a cross was known to be on his way to death as a condemned man.
Jesus said to pick it up daily and continue the march.
If you are focused on yourself--your needs, your wants, your desires, your rights, your thoughts, your opinions--then you cannot love your neighbor. It is impossible.
Sure, you can do acts of a loving nature, but you cannot sustain the love. Something will eventually test it, and you will revert to form and take care of yourself. The real problem is that when you try to do this, the recipient of that plastic love knows it almost instantly.
If Jesus was actually saying that we need to develop a love of self, then why did He also say that we need to deny ourself? Could it be that this is another one of the paradoxical principles of the kingdom?
Is it possible that the modern concept of self-love and self-esteem are being presented from a humanistic standpoint rather than a biblical one?
Could it be that the true way to a healthy self-esteem and a powerful love of self is completely contrary to our natural way of thinking?
Might the tide of self-loathing that is causing the eating disorders, depressions, suicides, and drug addictions be stemmed if we began to try Jesus' method of showing love?
Is it worth a try in your own life? How will you begin to practice a healthy death-to-self?
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