Here's the deal: those identical statements mean nearly opposite things. Our culture wants us to love ourselves by putting ourselves first. This is incredibly destructive. It's the reason relationships rip apart, because you have two people putting themselves first, instead of the other person. It's why Paul told Timothy, "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves." It's the reason our public discourse is poisonous and the reason Americans spend more than a billion dollars each year on teeth whiteners.
Good thing Jesus was sent on a rescue mission. See, what God means by loving ourselves is incredibly powerful. We love and value ourselves based on the finished work of the cross of Jesus. At the cross, our identity is displayed in God's grace and love.
Don't miss this: The only way to love ourselves in the way that God desires is to see ourselves through the lens of the cross of Jesus. Jesus spirituality is all about Jesus. And everyone knows that the cross and the empty tomb is what Jesus is all about.
But when was the last time you thought, Loving myself has everything to do with cross and empty tomb of Jesus?
The death and resurrection of Jesus, and our trust in him, places us in the family of God. In order to properly love ourselves, we need a clear vision of who we are. God's perfect plan was for us to view ourselves through the lens of the cross. God wants us to view ourselves as he views us, in and through Jesus.
We just don't think about it that way. But we need to. We were re-created in Christ to think about ourselves this way. And when we understand our truest identity, the one given to us by God in Christ, then truly biblical self-love ensues.
The last part of the greatest commandment—"love your neighbor as yourself"—is impossible unless we love ourselves. That's what as means—"in the same way." We need to love our neighbors in the same way that we love ourselves. Which is to say, we're commanded to love ourselves, but we've got to do it God's way.
Remember, our needs and longings are given to us by our Creator, and they point us back to the only one who can satisfy them. Each one of us has a very deep need of self-love. And we chose to satisfy that need in different ways. But unless we see ourselves in Christ, we will learn the words of that great English theologian Mick Jagger: "I can't get no satisfaction."
As we focus on the cross of Jesus, we will see ourselves as Jesus sees us. Living and loving out of that place, can we truly satisfy those deep needs.
Are you ready to look in?
Adapted from Upward, Inward, Outward by Daniel Fusco. Copyright © 2017. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.