Loving Self Unselfishly
The two greatest commandments, love God and love others, have provided a wonderful foundation for topics concerning loving God, loving my neighbor, loving the least, and loving my enemy. There's one love topic I haven't yet highlighted, however. Though it's easily missed, Jesus included it as being equally important.
Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as self, which seems to encourage self love. I've always believed Jesus told us to love our neighbor as self because we naturally love ourselves. Since self love is our natural inclination, telling us to love our neighbors like we love ourselves provides us an example to which we can easily relate. We know how to love self; therefore, we can know how to love our neighbor.
But, self love is usually deemed as selfish. If self love is selfish, why would Jesus advocate love of self? I don't think selfish self love is what He was advocating. Jesus did include self love as part of the second most important commandment, so I think it's worthy of evaluation.
I believe we can love self unselfishly, but our doing so is directly related to our love for God. As we love God we learn what His love for us looks like, and, thus, we learn how to love self appropriately. We develop self awareness and gain proper understanding of self worth. As a result we learn to engage in healthy self evalutaion, begin to understand our identity, and become willing for God to change what He sees needs changing in us. Learning to love self through God's love is never about selfish gain or self-preservation because it's not about our ego, rather it's about Him.
Unselfish self love is driven by the desire to please God. When we experience God's love, we learn to love Him back and develop the desire to please Him over self. Pleasing God changes us from being self-centered to being God-centered. God-centeredness is developed through relationship with Him, and as we engage in relationship with Him, we learn how He loves us and what He thinks about us.
What does God think about us? God told Jeremiah concerning the children of Israel, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). The context of this scripture does not diminish its relevance to our lives today. God feels the same about all of His people. God has plans for all of us, and His plans are good plans. When we love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, we learn to believe He loves us enough to have good and right plans for us.
Calvary reveals our value to God. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13, ESV). Jesus also said, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26, ESV). He continued further in verses 28 through 30 and said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (ESV). God cares about us; He has great love for us. His love demonstrates how much we're worth to Him. When we love God, we understand how important we are to Him.
God told Hosea, "My people are destroyed for their lack of knowledge..." (Hosea 4:6, ESV). The principle taught here is applicable even now. We destroy ourselves when we don't know God. And one thing we should know about God is what He thinks about us. When we don't understand God's love for us, our love for self is distorted because it's motivated by selfishness. God wants us to know He loves us. When we love God, we understand His love for us and learn to love ourselves through His perspective of us.
Jesus said we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and we are to love our neighbor as self. If I love God correctly, I'll love myself correctly. If I love myself correctly, I'll love others correctly. And I'll believe God's plans include more than just me: they include my neighbor, the least, and my enemy. I'll understand my neighbor, the least, and my enemy are all as equally important to God as I am. I'll also know God loves not just me, but he loves my neighbor, the least, and my enemy, too.
God loves people—God loves you, and God loves me. Therefore, if I love God completely, I will love myself unselfishly through His perspective and, thus, I will love you like I love myself. I will love you like God loves you.