Theme of the Week: Four Essential Loves
Bible Verse: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:9-14
Self plays a pivotal role in Christian spirituality and love of self is clearly espoused. A wholesome self-love in Christian spirituality is based upon the conviction that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. This love recognizes that we are not an accident, but that God in his incredible grace created us on purpose and equipped us with talents and gifts that he intends to use for the building up of the body of Christ. A wholesome self-love liberates us to acknowledge and accept both our strengths and our liabilities, and allows us to be content to live and minister within the parameters they entail.
Self-love exceeds the realm of emotion to include our intellectual and existential gifts. In other words, not only how we feel about ourselves, but what we think about ourselves (perhaps self-esteem) and what we do for and to ourselves (self-care or self-abuse). I suggest that authentic, wholesome self-love involves all three dimensions – affections, attitudes, and actions.
As Christ followers, we have also become what the apostle Paul calls the temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and we are not our own but have been bought at a great price. How sad to consider that many of us invest more time and energy into the care of our home or the church buildings than we do our own physical wellbeing.
Although we can identify some apparent similarities between self-love and self-centeredness, these two concepts are diametrically opposed in essence. An example of self-centeredness, one that is markedly distinct from authentic self-love, is found in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and Publican (Luke 18:9-14). Both went up to the temple to pray. But the Pharisee suffered from an intolerably inflated concept of his own morality, the result of a self-centered orientation.
An excessive or imbalanced self-love that puts self before God and others is an aberration and, in fact, is idolatry and therefore sin. Such self-oriented affection does not liberate or equip a person for ministry to others.
The selfless investment that Jesus made in the lives of his disciples and his sacrificial giving, ultimately in the laying down of his own life for the needs of others, remind us that self-love does not preclude costly sacrifice. But Jesus’s ministry did not fizzle out as a result of reckless abandon and disregard for his own well-being. He recognized and embraced the limits of his humanness without guilt or shame.
Effective leaders in ministry are people engaged in the process of learning to love themselves sincerely and biblically. They are people who know that God’s love for them cannot be enhanced or depleted in the least by anything they do or fail to do, and because of that, they can authentically love themselves.
Personal Reflection: How would you gauge the degree to which you care for yourself physically?
Taken from Four Essential Loves: Heart Readiness for Leadership and Ministryby William R. McAlpine Copyright © 2013 by William R. McAlpine. Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401
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