S2EP81 - Self Love

Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 81 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about Self Love.

The Berean Manifesto and The Ekklesian House have this keystone scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:13 CSB.  If you’re not familiar, a keystone is the top center stone in an arch.  The keystone is essential to keeping an arch standing, without it the arch just collapses inward.  Our keystone scripture reads, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is love.”  This scripture clearly endorses an emphasis on love over hope or faith.  When broadly applied to policies, day to day decisions, and most importantly theology, we come out on the other side with values and beliefs that don’t necessarily align with what’s considered by some as “traditionally sound” theology.  Most of this theology that is referred to as “sound” seems to have been built almost exclusively around upholding religion under the guise of faith without much regard to hope, and love seems to rarely make an appearance.

For instance, the religion of Christianity has traditionally held self-debasement as a pillar of the faith.  So, when we reference scriptures like Mark 12:31b CSB, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and teach that this command consists of two equal parts, first loving yourself so that you can then love your neighbor, we get push back from formally trained theologians.  Now despite how that sounds, I don’t have a problem with formal training in the area of theology.  What I have a problem with, are theological beliefs that don’t hold up to the scrutiny of scripture and reality being parroted at me.  That approach is fine for things like science, but not for the beliefs of faith.

As infuriating as that statement may be to those who disagree with my views on Mark 12:31, I share their frustration.  Seeing as no one in that camp will take the time to scripturally explain their point of view.  They only tell me that I’m wrong because what I believe isn’t “sound” theology, and I should study more and I’ll eventually get it.

I think I can see where they’re getting this idea from though.  If we look at 2 Timothy 3:1-4 CSB it says, “[1] But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  [2] For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, [4] traitors, reckless, conceited lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”

On face value, this scripture would seem to imply that loving yourself is a bad thing.  Except in English, the word love can have several different meanings.  We assume the meaning of English words that have multiple meanings by their context.  However, with scripture, there is a better way.

With the use of a Strong’s concordance, we can look up the original words used that were translated into English.  In Mark 12:31 the Greek word used for love is:

G25 agapaō ag-ap-ah’-o Perhaps from agan (much; or compare [H5689]); to love (in a social or moral sense): - (be-) love (-ed).

And in 2 Timothy 3:2 when Paul writes, “lovers of self,” he uses the Greek contraction:

G5367 philautos fil’-ow-tos From G5384 and G846; fond of self, that is, selfish: - lover of own self.

That’s one of the Greek words for love, and the Greek word for self.  That Greek word for love in that contraction being:

G5384 philos fee’-los Properly dear, that is, a friend; actively fond, that is friendly (still as a noun, an associate, neighbor, ect.): - friend.

I think James Strong, who wrote Strong’s Concordance explained the difference between these two words well in his definition of the Greek word:

G5368 phileō fil-eh-o From G5384 {the base word from “lovers of self”}; to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 {the love Jesus commanded having for yourself and your neighbor} is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as “to determine” and “to will,” or as “passion” and “intellect” respectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); specifically to kiss (as a mark of tenderness): - kiss, love.

That was some really college-level wording and I can feel most of you tuning me out halfway through what James Strong wrote.  If you’ll allow, I’ll rephrase this in my own words so we can make this easier to chew.  The love from “lovers of self,” is one that can be categorized as falling in love, being smitten, or having a soul-tie deep friendship connection.  This kind of love is an unstable emotional condition that changes with the circumstances you face.

Whereas the love from Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself, is choosing to place value despite evidence.  It’s to pick yourself up by your bootstraps even in the depths of crippling depression and face the day.  It’s to wake up on day 5,110 of your marriage and choose to love your spouse that day with equal gusto to the day you were married.  It’s to recognize the value and choose a glass of water over another carbonated beverage, or a stick of celery over another donut.

Interestingly enough, Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy 3 isn’t to Christians about unbelievers.  Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy is to Christians about other Christians.  Let’s read it again, and this time we’re going to add on verse 5.  2 Timothy 3:1-5 CSB says, “[1] But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  [2] For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, [4] traitors, reckless, conceited lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, {and verse five} [5] holding to the form of godliness but denying it’s power.  Avoid these people.”

I believe the fulfillment of Paul’s warning is due to theology like we talked about earlier.  Theology that is almost exclusively built around upholding religion under the guise of faith without much regard to hope, and love.

I don’t like to capitalize on current events, but as I meditate on love, and what’s going on with the modern Church, and consider the events of this last week I’m reminded of an excerpt from one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, “Out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.  Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout 'White Power!' — when nobody will shout 'Black Power!' — but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.”

We’ve allowed systemic issues of racism and inequality to fester around us until they’ve come to a head.  As The Church, we’re better than this.  And yet, we’ve emphasized politics and theology instead of demanding love above all else.  All my teaching may fall on deaf ears, but to those who are listening; let’s love first as our default, inspire hope in word and deed, and spread faith to those whose trust we’ve engendered.

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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