By Cortni Marrazzo, Crosswalk.com
Directly after the greatest commandment to love God with all our hearts, is Jesus’ charge to love others. The way in which Jesus tells us to actually love others, however, is often overlooked.
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39 MSG
Jesus tells us to love others “as well as you love yourself,” but delineating between a healthy version of self-love and selfishness can be confusing. Obviously, selfishness is not the goal. But looking down on yourself and devaluing yourself is not a win, either.
So how can you Biblically love yourself, so that you may love others better?
A great place to explore this question is in the often-referenced “love chapter” in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13. This is not only a great chapter to learn how to love others, but it also gives great insight on learning to love yourself so that you might love others well.
Let’s look at what 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says about love for some insight on how we can love ourselves.
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1. Love Is Patient (1 Cor. 13:4)
Love yourself: You are a work in progress, just like every human on earth, and it’s important to extend yourself patience and grace when it comes to your mistakes and imperfections. Just as God is ever so patient with us, so we ought to be patient with ourselves.
So that you can love others: When we are patient with ourselves, it is easier to give grace to and be patient with others. Choosing to be patient is a discipline that grows as we practice it.
2. Love Is Kind (1 Cor. 13:4)
Love yourself: Do you ever find yourself constantly meeting the needs and desires of others (moms, I’m talking to you), but hardly ever think about doing something for yourself? Part of loving yourself is to make sure you take time to do things that you enjoy and that make you happy. This could look like many different things: a hot bath, a pedicure, a massage, an outside run, or an evening out with your friends.
So that you can love others: When you take time to do things you enjoy, your soul becomes filled so you can then fill up the souls of others without depleting your reserves of love.
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3. Love Does Not Envy (1 Cor. 13:4)
Love yourself: When you spend time with God and renew your mind to His Word, you grow in confidence that He has a specific plan for your life, even if you don’t know what exactly it is. Confidence in God’s sovereignty in your life is the opposite of experiencing jealousy and envy towards what God is doing in others.
So that you can love others: When you are content in who you are, it opens you up to share in others’ joys and successes. God’s kingdom is like a river, not a pie. When others succeed and get blessed, it doesn’t mean there’s less for you because His blessings continue to flow without end.
4. Love Is Not Boastful or Proud (1 Cor. 13:4)
Love yourself: Thankfulness and humility are great ways to keep pride at bay in your life. As you pursue these virtues and practices, you will begin to recognize that everything you have is a gift from God. He wants to use you to bring glory to Himself and to help others. I’ve heard humility described as not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
So that you can love others: Humility helps us take our focus off of ourselves and our accomplishments, and helps us focus more attention on others.
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5. Love Does Not Dishonor (1 Cor. 13:5)
Love yourself: How do you talk to yourself, especially when you mess up? Do you say things like, “I’m so stupid,” or “I’ll never be good enough, or “I’m such a mess”? Instead of these negative comments, make a practice of speaking God’s Word over yourself and treating yourself nicely. Change your self-talk to statements like “I am a child of God” (John 1:12), “I am God’s handiwork” (Ephesians 2:10), “I am more than a conqueror through Christ” (Romans 8:37).
So that you can love others: When you practice being polite to yourself and reminding yourself of God’s love for you, that honor will begin to naturally flow out from you towards others in your life.
6. Love Is Not Self-Seeking (1 Cor. 13:5)
Love yourself: When you are not yielded to God’s plan, it is tempting to try to control things in your life to yield them to your own plans, no matter the cost. On the contrary, choosing to yield to God’s plan and way in your life will bring you peace and rest.
So that you can love others: You will have more grace towards others and their actions when you are at peace about God’s leading in your life, instead of trying to make them fit into your plan.
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7. Love Is Not Easily Angered (1 Cor. 13:5)
Love yourself: If you allow yourself to get worked up about things you have no control over, or let resentment and anger build up in your heart, you will struggle with a lack of peace in your life, and likely with some corresponding physical health issues as well. Intentionally giving your burdens to God and working through them will result in your life and mind being a lot more calm.
So that you can love others: When you are calm with yourself, you will be more equipped and ready to be calm with others as well, allowing you to avoid getting tripped up in others’ mistakes or drama. Your calming presence will also influence people to be calm with others in their lives.
8. Love Is Forgiving, it Keeps No Record of Wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5)
Love yourself: Give yourself grace on your past mistakes and don’t let them define who you are. Instead of saying things like, “I always mess things up,” or “I never do anything right”, remind yourself that God has already forgiven you and sees you as righteous (1 John 1:9).
So that you can love others: Forgiving is a practice. The more you do it, the better you get at letting things go. When you practice with yourself and continually give your sins and offenses to God, it becomes easier to do that with others. The more you lean into and accept God’s grace and forgiveness, the more you become aware of and thankful for that grace, and the more it naturally extends to others.
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9. Love Does Not Delight in Evil but Rejoices with the Truth (1 Cor. 13:6)
Love yourself: Being happy about bad things happening to others, no matter how awful you think that person may be, is contrary to what God’s Word says and doesn’t help you seek the truth and righteousness in your life that God desires for you. When we rejoice at the misfortunes of others, it is usually as a result of having a negative view of ourselves and wanting to feel better about ourselves. Letting this attitude fester is not healthy and not a good way to love yourself.
So that you can love others: When we have a healthy self-love, we can live out Romans 12:15, which tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. We all deserve death as sinful humans, but God graciously forgives us because He is merciful. We can do the same.
10. Love Protects (1 Cor. 13:7)
Love yourself: You are the one who can ask for God’s guidance to guard your heart and shelter your soul. As you work on being kind to your needs, getting the quiet time you need, and balancing your life to pursue mental and physical health; you are protecting what God values.
So that you can love others: As you protect your needs, and respect them, you will also be able to inspire others to not put themselves in situations that are harmful to their heart or balance.
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11. Love Trusts (1 Cor. 13:7)
Love yourself: Keep believing that God is working in you and through you (Philippians 2:13). Don’t disqualify yourself due to your own inadequacies because God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness (1st Corinthians 12:9).
So that you can love others: As you learn to embrace God’s strength in your weakness, it opens you up to believe in others, no matter what they’ve done. This enables you to be a voice of encouragement in their lives to help them believe in themselves and God through them.
12. Love Hopes (1 Cor. 13:7)
Love yourself: Expect good things in your life, and from yourself. Believe that you can become more like Jesus, that you can live how He wants you to live, and that you will receive the promises He gives to you.
So that you can love others: When you are focused on hope in your own life, it will spill out in your interactions with others. Your hope in God and His goodness in your life will inspire others to have that same hope.
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13: Love Perseveres (1 Cor. 13:7)
Love yourself: Don’t let your circumstances dictate your present or your future. It doesn’t matter if you are divorced, if you have a criminal record, got fired, or simply made a bad choice that hurt others, God still loves you and has a plan for your life. Circumstances will change, but continue to endure through whatever comes your way and let God work your circumstances for good in your life (Romans 8:28).
Don’t give up on yourself, no matter how bleak things look in your life. Remind yourself that God has a good plan for you and that you are never so lost that God can’t redeem you and your life. Despite how long it may take you to learn a lesson or grow, keep trying and keep believing.
So that you can love others: When you persevere, stay positive, and endure through difficult circumstances, all the while continuing to seek after what God has for you—it is an inspiration for others to do the same and believe that God can work in their lives as well.
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