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Friday, July 20, 2007
Miroslav Volf writes in Free of Charge that when the Spirit of Christ indwells us, God occupies the space, of "I," so that Christ lives in and through us; the cooperation and intimacy between our spirit and God's spirit becomes so intimate that there is in some ways no distinction.When we love, it is truly God loving through us. When we will God's will, it is also God willing through us.

What does this have to do with self-love? Simply that when we love ourselves, it is God loving us through us.

It isn't even controversial to talk about showing someone else the love of God, or letting God love someone through our presence, our actions, our listening, our acceptance. But somehow when we apply this exact same theology to self-love we feel a little worried. Is it self-indulgent? Selfish? Shouldn't we make ourselves feel guilty for our failures so we can improve? Is God loving us through loving ourselves too close to saying that we are God?

Or sin of all sins, Is self-love New-Agey?

If it's wrong to allow God to love us through our own spirit-filled self-love, then let's be consistent: It's plain wrong to let God love others through our love. Trying to let Christ shine through us to others is too close to self-worship.

Or does loving self in God's Spirit actually lead to the death of ego and the birth of a renewed life?

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 10:47 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 7/21/2007 04:24:00 AM, Blogger Sally

    Interesting questions and good thoughts- my response turned into a full post you can read it here

  • At 7/21/2007 06:23:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    Good post, Jemila.

    I think that some Christians are opposed to self-love because they've seen (or heard about) too many people who stop there and go no further, people who begin to focus only on themselves.

    This isn't a good reason not to do it, of course. I've seen many other people become unhealthily fixated on other things: status, money, career, "fixing" the perceived or real flaws in their loved ones.

  • At 7/22/2007 09:57:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Lydia, I'm with you. I don't think God has in mind the California-style me-me-me self-love -- but rather a self-love that is expansive, creating wholeness within the individual that is intrinsically given to overflow to others and to bring peace, acceptance, love and service to the world, neighbor and enemy -- as God reconciles us to God and self, we naturally incline to be agents, instruments and living words of reconciliation amongst our fellow creatures.

  • At 7/23/2007 04:05:00 AM, Blogger Irim

    So much of it is about definition, isn't it? So many people confuse self-love with selfishness.

    Let's apply the love litmus test, shall we?

    Selfishness isn't 'self-love'. It's fear and insecurity masquerading as 'love'. Is selfishness patient? kind? Free of envy, boastfulness, pride, rudeness, seeking? Is it *not* easily provoked? Does it think no evil? Does it rejoice in the truth? Believeth all things, beareth all things, hopeth all things?

    It does not.

    Selfishness grasps, clutches, fears that things will be taken away, so it must reach for more. No one will be there for it, so it must look out for number one, because it cannot trust, cannot believeth, beareth or hopeth all things. Selfishness is self-fear, not self-love.

    Self-love is different: it is being grounded in who you really are, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses and accepting them. Self-love is about knowing and unconditionally accepting who you really are, without needing to grasp at someone else's things or qualities, and treating yourself with the tolerance and kindness you show to others.

    There's a wonderful story in Rachel Remen's "My grandfather's blessings" where a rabbi carries his one year old daughter up to the bimah for his Yom Kippur sermon. She pulls his nose, goes for his kippah, tugs on his glasses. The congregation melts and laughs indulgently. He asks them, "What wouldn't you forgive her?"
    Everyone nods.
    Then he says, "So, when does it become impossible to forgive? Three? Thirteen? Thirty-five? [etc.]"

    And that's what self-love is, isn't it? Unconditional love. Loving yourself the way you love those closest to you, those for whom you would do anything. And that includes everything from being patient, kind, not being puffed up to rejoicing in the truth, both joyful and painful. Self-love beareth all things, believeth all things and hopeth all things.

    Litmus test passed.


  • At 7/23/2007 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Beautifully expressed, Irim. Thank you.


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