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In the Gates

A Guide to Proper Self-love

It's good to love yourself. Mostly.

The Rule of God’s Law: First Things (20)

Click here to watch a brief video introducing this week’s study. This week’s video is the same as for lesson 2.

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19.18

Hate and lust are only two of the many forms into which a healthy self-love can degenerate. The believer is called to love himself (Matt. 22.34-40). We are made in the image of God and redeemed for His glory. He loves us and commands our neighbors too as well. If we did not love ourselves, we would not reflect either the character of God or His purpose for us on earth.

At the same time, self-love can become degraded and corrupt until, at its worst, it manifests in such forms as hate, lust, or total self-absorption. There are degrees of corruption prior to these, however, and the Law of God provides a valuable hedge against the tendency of our affections to drift from pure and holy self-love and to begin the slide into corruption. By speaking into everyday situations where neighbor-love is required, the Law of God reminds us how we would like to be loved, and thus guides us in loving others.

For example, the Law of God guards our hearts against indifference to the needs and wellbeing of our neighbors. We must show concern for the poor and needy, the stranger and sojourner, and those whose wellbeing depends upon our being good stewards of our possessions (cf. Ex. 21.33, 34; 22.5, 6; Deut. 15.7, 8, 11; 22.1-4; 24.17, 18; etc.). It instructs us in the proper ways of showing respect to others (cf. Ex.22.28; Lev. 19.32; Deut. 5.16; etc.). And it counsels us against taking advantage of our neighbor when we might be in a position to do so (e.g., Deut. 24.13-13).

All these are practices we would like to see others observe toward us (cf. Matt. 7.12). The actions required of us in such situations entail various affections of our hearts, and each suggests an opposite affection to be nurtured or suppressed: compassion rather than indifference, respect rather than neglect or scorn, forbearing rather than taking advantage. We must act toward our neighbors as we would have them act toward us. By thus loving ourselves according to the teaching of God’s Law, we will love our neighbors as He intends.

The Law does not present a complete catalogue of the various affections of the heart. Instead, it addresses the most potent of them and points to the others in order to suggest ways that we would want others to treat and love us. Thus, by thinking of ourselves in the light of God’s Law, we may learn to love Him and our neighbors from the depths of our souls, from this most important component of our being.

Next steps – Demonstration: As you pray through the Ten Commandments, ask the Lord to give you one thing from each commandment you would like to see someone do toward you, to encourage you in loving God and your neighbors. Then try to put these into practice toward others throughout the day.

T. M. Moore

The Law of God is the soil which, fertilized by the rest of God’s Word and watered by His Spirit, brings forth the fruit of the Christian life. If you’d like to understand this process better, and how to make best use of the Law in your walk with and work for the Lord, order the book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, from our online store.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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