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Should We Pursue Self-Love?

We are saints and sinners at the same time, but as we yield to the power of God’s grace in our lives, contemplating Scripture and depending on the Holy Spirit, “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV).

Hence, I believe there is a proper biblical basis for what could be called, in the right context, positive self-esteem. (Indeed, it is far more positive than the atheistic evolutionary view of humanity with which society indoctrinates our young people.) According to the Bible, each of us is a special creation of a good and all-powerful God, and unlike no other creatures, we are made in His image. God has masterminded the exact combination of DNA and chromosomes that constitute our genetic codes, making each person as different from all others as every snowflake differs from the rest. As Christians, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. He has given us special gifts and abilities to serve Him in a particular and unique way. We are His beloved children, and He loved us so much as to die for us (demonstrating His worth as a God of unconditional love).

Also, sometimes those struggling with guilt over sin are told they just need to love and forgive themselves. It’s true that once we’ve received Christ’s forgiveness, God doesn’t want us to go through life punishing ourselves for past sins. Our part is to accept Christ’s atonement, not to repeat it.

Jesus suffered for our sins so we would not have to. By refusing to accept His provision, we imply that He died in vain. By inflicting suffering on ourselves, we imply that we are good enough to pay our own way. So whenever we start feeling unforgiven, it’s time to go back to the Bible and remind ourselves, and each other, of God’s forgiveness.

Christ Is the Proper Object of Our Focus

By following the modern path of making self-love, rather than God-love and others-love, we make it the engine or driving force of our Christian lives, and it’s a force that is bound to fail. If we see self-love as an ideal to be focused on and cultivated rather than an already-existing reality to be directed away from ourselves and toward God and others, it’s bound to do nothing more than propel us down the ancient and tragic path of selfishness.

God isn’t looking for people preoccupied with their worth as human beings. He’s looking with people with “a broken and contrite heart” and who are “contrite in lowly and spirit” (Psalm 51:17Isaiah 57:15). “Blessed are the humble,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:5 (literally, “Happy are the humble”).

But doesn’t Psalm 139, which is a centerpiece in all the Christian self-esteem books, tell us some wonderful things about ourselves? Yes, it does, but let’s not miss the focus. The focus is on David’s wonder at the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God. Let’s not reduce that God-centered emphasis to a mere prescription for self-esteem.

Sam Storm writes, “If you truly love your ‘self’ (and all of us do), take your eyes off ‘self’ and do your ‘self’ as favor: ‘Look at Me,’ says the Lord. ‘The state and condition and circumstances of your soul will change for the good only to the degree that you make My glory the object of your obsession.’”

This article about self-love originally appeared here, and is used by permission.